CLIPS / Pro bono schemes
London Circuit Commercial Court Pro Bono Scheme
This scheme commenced in January 2020 providing Pro Bono assistance in the London Central Commercial Court. The scheme has the full backing of the judge in charge, HHJ Mark Pelling, and is to be operated (at least initially) by Combar in conjunction with Advocate (the new name of the Bar Pro Bono Unit) for a pilot period of 18 months. The scheme envisages that litigants in person before that Court with an application listed for less than a day (not longer applications or trials) will be offered the opportunity of seeking pro bono assistance. If the case is approved as suitable for assistance by Advocate and a small panel of Combar Committee members a summary of it will be circulated to a mailing list of willing Combar members. The case would be allocated on a first come first served basis to any member who volunteered in response to that email, who would then conduct the hearing under licensed access instruction by Advocate. The papers and guidance in relation to the Scheme role would be provided to the barrister in advance of the hearing. Any further assistance beyond the hearing would fall outside the scope of that engagement and be engaged by further application if at all.
This scheme will give good opportunities for advocacy before grateful judges, and joining the list does not itself involve a commitment to take on any cases. The CLIPS scheme in the Chancery Division is similar to the proposed London Central Commercial Court scheme, but the latter differs in important respects: it offers an opportunity to appear in hearings that may be somewhat more substantial than is common in the Chancery Division Applications Court, with papers provided in advance (albeit potentially at short notice) having been vetted by a Combar panel. There are therefore good reasons to offer your time to both schemes.
If you are willing to volunteer, please email Veronica or Alison at email@example.com, providing your name, chambers (or other place of practice), email address and a contact telephone number. You can withdraw from the mailing list at any time.
CLIPS: Chancery Litigant in Person Scheme
CLIPS was set up by the Chancery Bar Association in 2013 as a duty scheme to assist litigants in person in the Interim Applications Court in the Chancery Division and the Central London County Court. A significant number of QC appointments / AG Panel and other references are given in respect of CLIPS volunteers, who are particularly memorable to the Judges.
In the High Court, the scheme operates by having one or two barrister volunteers making themselves available each day during term. They attend at 10am outside Court 10, where Conference Room 18 is the dedicated conference room available, with telephone, wireless broadband, a printer and copier. Theoretically, the volunteers may be contacted the day before to collect papers that the litigant in person has brought to the RCJ Advice Bureau. In practice, that will be a relatively unusual case.
The judge will start by running through the list of cases, and by this point it will become clear if any litigants in person require assistance. If they do, the judge will usually be willing to put the case further down the list to allow time to take instructions. The judge will fully understand that there are limits to what the volunteer can do, and may even be willing to explain the relevant test if the area of law is unfamiliar. There is also a crib sheet and other material available on the CLIPS rota, below. In many cases, the volunteer will simply be asking for the application to be stood over. In other cases, it will be possible to agree an order with the other side. Or it may be obvious that the litigant in person needs to be referred to the RCJ Advice Bureau.
If no litigant in person has appeared by 11am or thereabouts, the volunteers can return to chambers, but are on call for the remainder of the day (up to 4.30pm). On many days, therefore, the volunteers may only be giving up an hour or so of their time. But on some days, something much more interesting may happen.
The procedure in the Central London County Court is similar, except that it operates on Fridays only. Cases there mainly concern case management. The volunteer attends at 9.30am and the dedicated conference room is in the ground floor reception area of the Thomas More Building of the RCJ.
The scheme works though the licensed access rights of Advocate (formerly the Bar Pro Bono Unit), so there is no need for an instructing solicitor. Bar Mutual (although not any top up insurance) will automatically cover the work under the scheme.
To volunteer, and for full documentation about the scheme, please use the rota at http://probono.chba.org.uk/. Remember to tell your clerks that you will not be available for other hearings on the day for which you have volunteered.
Alternatively, if you prefer to sample the scheme before volunteering, then please contact Francesca Compton, the ChBA Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. She can put you in touch with a volunteer who will take you court with them and show you how it works.