On 26 March 2020, a reception in the Great Hall of the Royal Courts of Justice will mark the 125th anniversary of the Commercial Court. It will also mark the launch of the 2020 Commercial Litigators’ Forum (CLF) Directory of Service Providers, a centralised database of service providers to the law, which will be a key means of raising funds for the new National Pro Bono Centre opening this year.
We invite and encourage providers of services of all types to the leading law firms and to litigation and arbitration to consider what they can contribute by becoming a sponsor of the Directory: all income raised will go to support the new National Pro Bono Centre and its essential work.
The new National Pro Bono Centre: a step towards improved access to justice
The English legal system is perhaps the most admired system of justice in the world but many people cannot access it, through want of means. That is an issue we must tackle urgently.
There has always been a pro bono ethic in the legal profession. Twenty-five years ago, things moved from ad hoc to organised as a number of legal charities were established. Then a decade ago the National Pro Bono Centre opened its doors in London. Housing many of the pro bono charities, including LawWorks and Advocate, and joined by the Access to Justice Foundation and the London Legal Support Trust and others, this hub coordinates work and support across England and Wales.
The Centre’s work is vital in allowing pro bono practitioners to provide representation in cases like the recent appeal to the Supreme Court over carers on minimum wage in Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake. Among thousands of other cases, practitioners working through charities based within the Centre have recently assisted:
- A refugee to recover life savings of £10,000 after failed attempts on his own.
- A victim of life changing criminal injury to achieve an award of £300,000 rather than the £2,600 initially awarded.
- A single mother to win her argument that contact by the children with the father should be in the UK rather than in a country with a risk over return.
Without pro bono assistance, these individuals, and thousands others like them, could not have been helped. That cannot be right.
Ten years after its establishment, the new National Pro Bono Centre is relocating to larger premises, with the aim of going further in its mission to act as a physical and virtual hub for pro bono providers.
The new Centre will continue to house the main pro bono charities. It will enable them to scale up. It will provide greater opportunity for collaboration. It will increase the sensible use of technology, and make good ideas easily accessible. It will give room and reach to explore greater engagement with the advice sector, including to the regions. It will help draw together many agencies, including government, to make the most of the public and voluntary resources we have.
A large part of the new Centre’s funding will be secured through donations made by sponsoring the CLF Directory of Service Providers.
The CLF Directory of Service Providers: exploiting a gap in the legal market, for charity
The CLF Directory of Service Providers is a creative attempt to address two problems in the UK’s legal services market at the same time, and a rare example of a commercial venture that will also make a significant contribution to pro bono legal services provision in the UK.
First, it provides a centralised and maintained database of service providers around the world, including e-disclosure providers, valuation experts, forensic accountants and funders, and foreign law experts. It will both assist in-house lawyers and law firm partners to remember which provider offers which service and who their contact there is, and save providers valuable time in meeting and pitching to individual law firms and in-house teams in the hope of getting new work.
Secondly, it provides an exciting opportunity to support the new National Pro Bono Centre. Providers who pay to secure an enhanced listing and categorisation (from Diamond to Silver in each category) will be supporting the Centre, which will receive all income raised from sponsorship.
Donations of time as well as money are appreciated. It is hoped that the Directory will become the leading resource for those seeking services and continue therefore to be able to provide a revenue stream for the National Pro Bono Centre. This will only happen if individuals in both law firms and in-house legal teams give a small amount of their valuable time by engaging with their contacts to promote the Directory and ensure its continued existence and prominence.
This virtuous circle is completed with the involvement of the GC100 (the Association of General Counsel and Company Secretaries working in FTSE100 companies), COMBAR (the Commercial Bar Association) and the inspiration and support of the Commercial Court judges. All of these leaders in their fields recognise that we must do more about access to justice for those without means and that every part of our justice system must be cared for and supported.
The response from suppliers has already been phenomenal, and we are grateful to those who have already contributed both sponsorship and time to the Directory and to the Launch Reception at the Royal Courts of Justice.
For more details about the Directory, its current sponsors and opportunities for sponsorship, see the Commercial Litigators’ Forum website.