First the big freeze, next the big thaw. And despite the many problems with snowed-in cars, overworked central heating systems and cancelled trains – later to read flooded roads, cracked pipes and (still) cancelled trains – there have also been countless examples of charity and generosity.
My own neighbours helped me dig out my half-buried car so that I could get to work and, later that week, together we helped another neighbour who had been too sick to venture outside and thus hadn't discovered the dreaded burst pipe. And I have heard countless other stories of “sub-zero heroes”: the good Samaritans who handed out coffee and biscuits to those stuck on the motorway; the stranded travellers who shared food and drinks with those around them; the taxi drivers who picked up desperate pedestrians even when off duty; those who offered a helping hand to elderly neighbours. Many others braved the dreadful conditions simply to turn up at work, as happened here at the Society, where it was business as usual thanks to the efforts of our team.
So, when better than a national weather crisis, during the season of goodwill, to further develop the pro bono work carried out by solicitors up and down the country? LawWorks, which is already well established in England as a “clearing house” for solicitors offering pro bono legal services, is to be replicated in Scotland thanks to the pioneering efforts of a group of solicitors, themselves offering pro bono effort to get this off the ground. An official launch is expected at the beginning of next year and the Society is currently helping out by providing office space at Drumsheugh Gardens.
Solicitors already carry out a great deal of pro bono work, much of it never publicised. LawWorks Scotland will provide a more coordinated approach in helping match up those who can give advice with those who need it, as well as encouraging the involvement of others in the profession who may not currently do pro bono work. Providing free legal advice can never be a substitute for a properly funded legal aid system, but it is a deep-rooted tradition within the Scottish legal profession and, as a result, I am sure LawWorks Scotland will be welcomed by the profession and public alike.
Anyone looking for a New Year’s resolution could always consider getting involved. In the meantime, have a great Christmas and a happy Hogmanay.Lorna Jack is Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland