Law Society expands commitment to pro bono legal services

Across British Columbia, lawyers and community organizations continue to support a strong tradition of pro bono legal services.

While time donated by lawyers is the backbone of pro bono services, ensuring adequate funding for organizations that provide legal services to the public is key. To help meet this need, the Law Society has provided funding to establish Pro Bono Law BC and to support The Western Canadian Society to Access Justice. Last year, the Pro Bono Funding Task Force considered whether the Law Society should continue to provide any funding to external pro bono organizations.

After examining the practices of other law societies, the Task Force recommended that the Law Society allocate a portion of the annual practice fee to funding pro bono services. In looking at how to distribute the funds, the Task Force noted that the Law Foundation of BC is uniquely well suited to determining recipients of grant funds. From its inception through 2005, the Law Foundation has approved grants amounting to more than $298 million to support law-related programs in BC.

The commitment to pro bono services has a long history in BC. In 1969, BC lawyers persuaded the government to enact legislation that financial institutions pay interest on pooled trust accounts to the newly created Law Foundation. The Foundation, established under the Legal Profession Act, was the first organization of its kind in North America. Since then, law foundations have been established in nearly every other jurisdiction across North America.  

At their March meeting, the Benchers confirmed their earlier decision to transfer one percent of the General Fund portion of the annual practice fee to the Law Foundation to be used for funding pro bono programs. The Law Foundation will use the grant to expand its role in funding BC organizations that provide pro bono legal services. Funding provided through the grant will be above and beyond funding allocated by the Foundation prior to 2006.