Solicitor-general makes case for free legal advice

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Nov 08, 2017
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Robert Buckland, QC, is giving a lecture to 30 secondary school pupils today

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One of the government’s two law officers will lecture secondary school pupils on the perils of modern online behaviour today as part of National Pro Bono Week.

Robert Buckland, QC, the solicitor-general, will join lawyers from the Government Legal Department to host the session, which is also part of the Citizenship Foundation’s lawyers in schools programme.

Buckland will lead a session for 30 students from the Ark Academy schools and the London Nautical School. His advice will focus on the law relating to social media and issues around freedom of expression.

National Pro Bono Week organisers said that the event was more important than ever and that legal advice clinics were cropping up in historically unlikely venues, such as GP surgeries and healthcare centres.

Buckland’s cabinet colleague, the attorney-general, Jeremy Wright, QC, visited a new pro bono legal advice centre at King’s College London yesterday.

“The advice given at the newly opened clinic will help make a difference to people’s lives as well as to the communities in which they live,” Wright said. “These students are the next generation of lawyers, and the skills they gain now will be used throughout their careers.”

However, the rise of the pro bono scheme is controversial within the legal profession because some lawyers fear that the more it grows, the less likely the government is to address a funding gap in the legal aid system.

Other lawyers argue that some pro bono schemes rely either on junior lawyers at large commercial law firms who have little knowledge of public law issues, or inexperienced university law students.

Nonetheless, Joe Egan, president of the Law Society, the body that represents solicitors in England and Wales, hailed recent pro bono efforts. “In 2017, the public service ethos of so many of our profession has been particularly evident as they have stepped in to volunteer their services to victims of terror attacks and the devastating fire in Grenfell Tower,” he said.

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