27/11/2020 News

As part of European Pro Bono Week, Minister of State for Law Reform, James Browne, on behalf of Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, yesterday launched ‘Pro Bono Pledge Ireland’ a new initiative which asks the legal profession to commit to promoting access to justice by providing free legal assistance to those in need.

The Pledge is being supported by the Bar of Ireland, The Law Society of Ireland, and the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association. The Chair of the Bar of Ireland, Maura McNally SC, and the President of The Law Society of Ireland, James Cahill, also spoke at the event.

The Pledge was developed by an independent grouping of law firms, barristers, and in-house legal teams with a presence in the Republic of Ireland who have come together to affirm their commitment to delivering pro bono services in Ireland. The Pledge is coordinated by PILA (the Public Interest Law Alliance, a project of FLAC).

The Pledge provides a common definition of pro bono, a commitment to a minimum aspirational target of 20 pro bono hours per lawyer per year, and a mechanism to benchmark progress through annual reporting of anonymous pro bono data. All barristers, law firms, and in-house legal teams are welcome to join the Pledge.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said “Pro Bono Pledge Ireland represents an excellent model for pro bono delivery in Ireland. It recognises the voluntary contribution members of the legal profession make in pledging their time and skills for the benefit of people who need them. It serves to enhance access to justice while also promoting a culture of volunteerism and corporate social responsibility. I congratulate FLAC, PILA, and all Pledge partners on this important and valuable initiative.”

FLAC Chairperson, Peter Ward SC said, “Pro Bono Pledge Ireland is the first collaborative effort in Ireland to articulate the shared professional responsibility of lawyers to promote access to justice through pro bono legal work. It recognises the substantial and growing level of pro bono contribution by the legal profession towards meeting the unmet legal needs. This need, of course, is now even more pressing due to the pandemic, where the FLAC phone line has been inundated with very stressed callers seeking urgent legal advice  and PILA has seen a 50% increase in demand for pro bono legal services from NGO partners.”

Arthur Cox is a founding signatory of Pro Bono Pledge Ireland.  Commenting on the pledge, Head of Pro Bono Alex McLean said: “Arthur Cox has a long-standing culture of service to our communities that is a legacy of the founder of the firm.  We firmly believe that access to justice is a right and we are committed to providing legal assistance to some of the most vulnerable in society.  The Pro Bono Pledge Ireland is a powerful statement from many of Ireland’s leading law firms, barristers, in-house legal teams, and the professional associations that represent them.  We are delighted to support this important initiative and are committed to working with our colleagues in the legal profession in Ireland to deliver on its aims”.