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7 December, 2010

Lawyers must re-connect with their communities, says Lord Phillips

Addressing the European Pro Bono Forum in Paris recently, Lord Phillips said that lawyers must leave the 'ghetto' of their practices and help meet a growing demand for free legal services.

The website TrustLaw reported that Andrew Phillips, founder of law firm Bates Wells and Braithewaite, the Citizenship Foundation and the Solicitors Pro Bono Group (now LawWorks), had been in Paris to accept an award for his achievements in advancing the culture of pro bono work.

A keen advocate of citizenship education, he complained that large law firms 'no longer practice within communities,' and do not understand 'in their guts what the needs of ordinary people are'.

'They're in a sort of ghetto,' he said.

When he was a young lawyer things had been different: 'In those days lawyers were pillars of the community ... They did bags and bags of community work. It expanded their horizons'. But the law in England was now 'an instrument for the wealthy and powerful to get their way,' he said. 'What sort of society is that?'

However, he was 'hugely impressed' by the young members of the Forum. Young people are, he said, 'determined to get at injustice and do something about it'.

In presenting the award on behalf of the Public Interest Law Institute, Ian Forrester QC pointed out that Andrew Phillips was not telling people to give something for nothing. 'Lord Phillips is not saying that we should give our goods to the poor like St. Francis,' he said.

'He has had a successful professional life. He believes that pro bono should be done because it's morally right. He believes also that pro bono can be fun. He believes that pro bono can teach you how to practice law better.'


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