6 October 2023|
Diversity / Inclusion In Practice
Farore Law’s Commitment to Pro Bono and Access to Justice
At Farore Law, we are committed to using our specialist skills to assist those who would otherwise be unable to access legal representation. The firm has an ethos of giving back to the community and striving to secure equality before the law. See our pro bono information for further details.
In this article, Lucas Nacif and Robin Pickard explain the reasons why they are committed to pro bono work and provide top tips for any lawyer considering taking on a pro bono case.
Why Pro Bono?
– ACCESS TO JUSTICE: There is no legal aid for employment cases. Whilst there is legal aid for discrimination cases, many litigants struggle to obtain legal aid funding and, in any event, legal aid does not cover representation in the Employment Tribunal (see report here). Doing pro bono cases through organisations such as FRU or Advocate allows us to further access to justice and help worthy Claimants who would otherwise be deprived of legal representation. Discrimination law is notoriously complex, and without pro bono assistance, a Claimant might be unable to articulate their claim in a legally compelling way.
– EQUALITY OF ARMS: Advising and representing a litigant in person ensures equality of arms between the parties. There are many employment cases where a LiP is up against a well-resourced Respondent. Even if the LiP’s case isn’t the strongest, pro bono representation ensures that the Claimant at the very least receives a fair hearing and understands the strengths and weaknesses of their claim. An example of ensuring equality of arms is where Lucas advised a whistleblower in the care home sector through Advocate on the merits of her claim and settlement strategy, as well as helping to draft her witness statement. Although the Claimant had a very strong case, she was unable to articulate her claim properly and struggled to engage with the legal test that whistleblowers are required to satisfy for automatic unfair dismissal claims under section 103A of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Lucas provided detailed guidance to the Claimant on producing a witness statement and drafted a detailed proof of evidence for her. This later resulted in the claim being settled on financially advantageous terms for the Claimant, alongside an agreed reference to help her find future employment.
– ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITIES: Pro bono provides invaluable advocacy opportunities for junior barristers. At Farore Law, we solely act in complex, high value matters, which means that Robin and Lucas predominantly work as juniors. Pro Bono lets us be on our feet more often. For example, in June 2023, Robin undertook a pro bono case through Advocate which concerns disability discrimination in relation to type I diabetes. The Claimant’s prospective employer withdrew her offer of employment upon learning she was type I diabetic because of alleged occupational safety concerns. Robin assisted his client to make an application to amend her claim to ensure that it proceeded on the strongest legal basis. At the Preliminary Hearing, Robin successfully argued that the balance of prejudice lay in favour of granting his client’s application to amend her claim. Not only was this excellent advocacy experience, but it has ensured that the Claimant’s case is pitched at its highest.
– PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Acting in pro bono cases widens our knowledge of employment law. For example, Lucas has been advising (through Advocate) a barrister who is being prosecuted by the Bar Standards Board for dishonesty offences and might potentially face disbarment. Pro Bono work has allowed Lucas to develop his knowledge of professional disciplinary law, which has provided him with invaluable experience from which to draw when working on misconduct and regulatory cases at Farore Law. Similarly, Robin’s experience of working with Protect has deepened his knowledge of whistleblowing law, which he has utilised when acting as a junior on the firm’s cases.
Top 5 Tips
– Know how to manage expectations. Although we are enthusiastic volunteers at FRU and Advocate, we sadly cannot manage all aspects of a Claimant’s case. Often, our assistance is confined to drafting specific documents (such as a Schedule of Loss), advising on the merits of an individual’s claim, or representing Claimants in the Employment Tribunal. We always make it clear to LiPs the extent of our pro bono work and outline any potential difficulties they may face at a forthcoming hearing.
– Look at the bigger picture and be creative. The legal world can be confusing and alienating for LiPs, which often results in LiPs producing poorly pleaded Particulars of Claim. A good pro bono lawyer will help a Claimant to better articulate their case before the Employment Tribunal, which may involve advising on applications to amend and drafting further and better particulars. It is important to be strategic in your approach so that the Claimant is in the best possible position to secure a favourable settlement or, if necessary, to succeed before the Employment Tribunal.
– Put aside sufficient time. Having client conferences, conducting legal research and drafting legal documents takes a considerable amount of time. You must therefore carefully consider your prior obligations when proposing the terms of your assistance. Organisations such as Advocate are able to request assistance from pro bono solicitors, so if there’s an aspect of the Claimant’s case that needs to be addressed, and you do not have capacity to do the work, flag it so that further assistance can be sought.
– Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. When encountering a novel point, you should discuss it with others. Speak to colleagues, your pupil supervisor and/or the assistants at FRU or Advocate. Speaking to and collaborating with others is a great opportunity to learn and develop your skills – please make the most of the support that is available to you.
– Only do cases you find interesting. We are not obliged to take on cases at FRU or Advocate, so when we do so we take on cases we consider to be interesting and fulfilling, either on a professional or personal level.
At Farore Law, we take considerable pride in our pro bono work and hope that readers will be inspired to incorporate such work into their practices.