Barry McAlinden is a family law specialist. He deals with a range of cases concerning children in the public and private law jurisdictions. In celebration of Pro Bono Week, he discusses one of his pro bono cases from the past year.
Please tell us about the pro bono work you did
I acted for a mother of 2 young children who was involved in Children Act proceedings. The father had a solicitor and leading silk [KC] acting for him.
The case had attracted some press coverage and there had been more than one set of proceedings. My client was dealing with a lot of correspondence, multiple hearings and had health issues in the background which added another level of anxiety for her.
What impact did the pro bono work have on the people and communities you worked with?
I think it offered reassurance, support, and confidence that my client’s voice would be heard. Quite often very sensitive issues are at play and parents can be highly vulnerable and also feel quite alone and powerless.
Providing pro bono assistance alleviates a lot of stress and hopefully empowers the client throughout the proceedings and beyond. Being available to talk through the detail of a case but also the impact it all has on the client and children, gives the client a sense that someone is in the trenches with them.
Did your pro bono work have an impact on your professional career? If so, in what ways?
Yes. It is a reminder that legal representation can often be inaccessible due to cost following changes made to legal aid provision some years ago. This has left deserving parents without representation which is an extra stressor on a parent going through emotive proceedings concerning their children.
Any final comments
Pro bono work is very worthwhile and fulfilling. It is good for your own practice and good for the administration of justice.
And sadly, pro bono work is likely to become even more important as the financial pressures on society get worse.