US firms step in to support legal advice centre as demand for services rises 92%

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Goodwin Procter have signed up to support Toynbee Hall Free Legal Advice Centre, the world’s oldest free legal advice centre, after cuts to legal aid have seen demand for its services rise by 92 per cent.

The two US giants join Allen & Overy, King & Wood Mallesons, Ashurst and Vinson & Elkins in providing volunteers and financial support to the Tower Hamlets-based charity.

The legal advice centre costs £65,000 per year to run but is currently running at a deficit. It has been forced to cut back its weekday advice sessions from four to three per week, and reduce a weekly Saturday women-only clinic to once a month.

However, the contribution from the newly signed-up firms will allow the Saturday clinic to operate on a weekly basis again. Toynbee Hall also hopes to reinstate the fourth weekday session.

The decision by Cleary and Goodwin Procter will come as welcome news to Michael Gove, who in June called for the most successful commercial firms to do more pro bono to support the justice system.

American firm Arnold & Porter came out best in the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s 2015 index of pro bono, with its lawyers averaging nearly 80 hours each per year. However, just 38 firms with offices in England and Wales responded to the survey and just 26 provided data, the vast majority of those being US-founded. 

Meanwhile, 85 per cent of law schools are planning to increase their pro bono activities in anticipation of increased client demand for their services.

Previously… 

29 May 15: Arnold & Porter tops Thomson Reuters’ pro bono index – but only 26 firms in England provided data

25 Mar 15: Law schools plan expansion of pro bono activities in anticipation of increased demand