Pro Bono Week profile: Rebecca Handcock

01 November 2021

Please tell us about the pro bono work you did

I wrote a detailed advice for a woman who had longstanding issues with a local authority. Her complaints related to housing and homelessness and stretched back to 2006.

Over the years, she had attempted to pursue various routes for redress, many of which were dealt with improperly or inadequately by the local authority.

Although the legal issues in the case were not terribly complex, the factual matrix and confusion (caused in part by the local authority’s historic handling of the matter) meant that this was a substantial piece of work.

What impact did the pro bono work have on the people and communities you worked with?

I hoped to reassure my client by providing a lengthy and detailed advice which carefully set out the background and timeline.

My aim was for her to feel she had been heard and understood. I also wanted to provide her with the necessary closure by explaining in understandable terms:

  • what had happened
  • what routes of redress may or may not have been available to her, and why.

Did your pro bono work have an impact on your professional career? If so, in what ways?

Providing advice to an individual, which does not lead to a claim being pursued, is unlikely to significantly raise your profile or generate further work.

However, I believe it offers an invaluable opportunity to experience the satisfaction of helping someone who really needs it and who may otherwise fall “through the cracks”.

Typically, we work with people who fit into the very limited categories for which legal aid remains available, or those able to pay for our services.

Consequently vast swathes of aggrieved parties may never benefit from having their options explained to them, nor the catharsis of being listened to by someone who understands the system and has taken the time and effort to understand their complaint.

It is humbling to be able to provide this type of pro bono assistance, and with that comes the opportunity for significant self-reflection and growth.

Any final comments

I would really encourage anyone with the relevant skills to make time for pro bono work. It is extremely rewarding in and of itself.

Additionally, it may also offer the chance to develop skills, gain experience, and perhaps to learn a thing or two about yourself and your own practice!