The number of practicing solicitors working in-house is growing, as is their capacity to undertake pro bono work.
According to Law Society figures, the number of solicitors working in-house is growing faster than those in private practice, having doubled over the past 10 years, predicted to reach 35 per cent of the profession by 2020.
There are many ways in-house solicitors can volunteer. This guidance explains regulatory and professional rules which are not always clear or easy to apply:
"There are specific rules for in-house solicitors but - as this guidance shows - a broad range of legal pro bono can be undertaken to the benefit of many individuals, charities and communities. In fact, so long as other practice requirements are in place, there is little by way of pro bono which an in-house solicitor can’t do – if they have the time and enthusiasm."
This document first published in March 2019, has now been updated in light of the SRA's new Standards and Regulations which came into effect towards the end of last year. The key changes of relevance to pro bono and in-house practice are that:-
- The new regulations enable solicitors to deliver both reserved and unreserved legal services from both authorised and unauthorised entities, and/or on their own account (i.e as a 'freelancer'), to the public;
- However, the changes to the SRA regulations do not remove the statutory restriction in section 15 of the Legal Services Act which, whilst ambiguous, in effect requires that in-house solicitor can only provide ‘reserved legal activities’ for their employer. (Note, however in respect of reserved/unreserved activities, we expect that most, if not all, pro bono work that in-house teams might want to undertake will be unreserved; we cover this in detail in our guidance.)
- There is now the option of registering as a 'freelancer', that can enable solicitors to 'step outside of their employment' in the work that they can undertake as a practitioner, including pro bono work;
- The basic requirement for insurance (PII) for pro bono work, is that PII must be in place that is "adequate and appropriate".
This guidance does not deal with the regulation of the paid work of in-house solicitors.
Please contact Richard Pitkethly, LawWorks’ Head of Learning & Practice, with any comments or questions concerning this guidance.
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Download the guidance:
Further information about our work on regulatory issues is availble through this link.