Lily Cooke is a family law barrister. Her cases range from children law (both private and public), domestic abuse, divorce to ancillary relief.
She is the barrister who helps champion pro bono within chambers – working closely with Advocate. In celebration of Pro Bono Week, she discusses one of her pro bono cases and what pro bono means to her.
Please tell us about the pro bono work you did
Recently, I represented a mother in an appeal following the conclusion of her case without funding. She didn’t meet the Legal Aid Agency criteria and was unable to afford to pay privately.
There were several features of her case that meant she would have been particularly vulnerable if she had been without representation. Having worked with this client for over a year, I wanted to see the matter through for her pro bono.
We were successful on appeal and with the further directions hearing.
What impact did the pro bono work have on the people and communities you worked with?
I think my pro bono support has allowed, often very vulnerable, members of society to put their points across in legal proceedings when they were unable to do so themselves.
My family and I are from East London and we run a small restaurant. While growing up I had the privilege of getting to know lots of people locally, many of whom were marginalised and in need of assistance. As a consequence, I feel very passionately about helping others in the community.
I hope my pro bono involvement in cases has helped reduce my clients' feelings of anxiety at a time when they faced potentially life-changing legal disputes in relation to their children and families.
Did your pro bono work have an impact on your professional career? If so, in what ways?
Yes. It strengthens my belief in the importance of everyone having access to justice. I am passionate about this career and about pro bono work.
The area of law I work in is emotionally challenging. And to me, it seems only right that people are able to get support when they are experiencing such a stressful time in their lives.
It can be extremely difficult now to access legal advice. So I was delighted to take on the role of barrister ‘pro bono champion’ for Advocate when I joined Field Court Chambers and to be involved in encouraging others to sign up to and take on pro bono cases.
Any final comments
Even if you only have a couple of hours to spare, pro bono work can give you additional experience and career opportunities. It can also be very rewarding. In a short space of time, you can make a vital and positive difference to someone else’s life.
I feel very fortunate to be in a place where I am able to take on a range of work including pro bono cases. Sometimes we all need a hand.