Skip to main content

Advice on Pro Bono Work

  1. Pro Bono work undertaken by a student member of Middle Temple is the responsibility of the student member and the instructing pro bono organisation. 
  2. Middle Temple cannot give a student advice on how to conduct a particular case, as that is the responsibility of the pro bono organisation which has instructed the student. 
  3. Students are expected to comply with the same professional and ethical requirements as any pupil or barrister representing a client.  From time to time a student may encounter ethical problems when undertaking pro bono work.  When problems arise, the Bar Council’s ethical guidance line is unable to assist students, and so Middle Temple has a panel of practising barristers who will be able to give general guidance over the telephone.  Contact details are set out in paragraph six below. 
  4. The following general ethical points are drawn to the attention of students 

    302.   A barrister has an overriding duty to the Court to act with independence in the interests of justice: he must assist the Court in the administration of justice and must not deceive or knowingly or recklessly mislead the Court.

    303.   A barrister:

    (a)      must promote and protect fearlessly and by all proper and lawful means the lay client's best interests and do so without regard to his own interests or to any consequences to himself or to any other person (including any professional client or other intermediary or another barrister);

    (b)      owes his primary duty as between the lay client and any professional client or other intermediary to the lay client and must not permit the intermediary to limit his discretion as to how the interests of the lay client can best be served.

    307.   A barrister must not:

    (a)      permit his absolute independence, integrity and freedom from external pressures to be compromised;

    (b)      do anything (for example accept a present) in such circumstances as may lead to any inference that his independence may be compromised;

    (c)     compromise his professional standards in order to please his client, the Court or a third party, including any mediator.

    603.   A barrister must not accept any instructions if to do so would cause him to be professionally embarrassed. For this purpose a barrister will be professionally embarrassed if:

    (a)     he lacks sufficient experience or competence to handle the matter;

    (b)     having regard to his other professional commitments he will be unable to do, or will not have adequate time and opportunity to prepare, that which he is required to do.

    These requirements are taken from the Bar Code of Conduct, which is available on the Bar Standards Board website:

  5. If a student is concerned about an ethical issue in respect of a pro bono case, he or she should raise that concern in the first instance with the instructing pro bono organisation, and also check whether the problem is already covered in the Guidance and list of Frequently Asked Questions on the Bar Council’s website, where many of the more usual (and unusual) problems are answered: 
  6. The barrister will be able to give general guidance to the student only.  The student will also be expected to confirm by email the advice given as soon as may be practicable.In the unlikely event that the concern cannot be answered by that organisation or is not covered by the general guidance above, it is open to a student to telephone Christa Richmond, the Director of Education Services, on 020 7427 4800, who will put the student in touch with a member of Middle Temple’s panel of barristers.  
  7. The barrister will be able to give general guidance to the student only.  The student will also be expected to confirm by email the advice given as soon as may be practicable.