“My lawyer has been fantastic — and that’s not something I’d expect to find myself saying,” says Jodie Ayre, an Australian who was a passenger on the No 30 bus blown apart at Tavistock Square on July 7 last year. Jodie, 26, was lucky to escape with a burst eardrum. “It’s all hazy, but I remember looking at the back of the bus and seeing two rows and then nothing else,” she recalls.
Soon after the blast Jodie left London, where she had lived for nine months, and returned to Sydney. A few days before her move she was referred to the London Bombings Legal Helpline, set up by the Law Society, and put in touch with Daniel Easton, a solicitor at Leigh Day & Co, one of many firms that responded to the bombings. “I was very isolated in Australia but Daniel kept me in touch,” Jodie says.
She received counselling after suffering what she calls “survivor’s guilt” — diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder. Leigh Day handled her compensation claim under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (an interim payment for injury and trauma has been made) as well as other practicalities. “I am very grateful. Daniel has been a lifeline,” Jodie says.
This is the week that the profession puts modesty to one side and bangs the drum for the good works done in the name of pro bono publico. The profession’s response to July 7 is as compelling an illustration of what pro bono can achieve. “It’s certainly the best example in a year where a huge amount of pro bono has been done around the country and internationally,” says Michael Napier, the Attorney-General’s pro bono envoy and senior partner at Irwin Mitchell. His firm advised 15 bombing victims. According to Robert Gill, chief executive of LawWorks (formerly the Solicitors Pro Bono Group), 160 other cases were allocated to lawyers volunteering their services.
While July’s events represented an occasion where pro bono rose to the challenge, some commentators detect the beginnings of compassion fatigue. Three years ago pro bono was “riding high”, says Christopher Digby-Bell, Law Society council member. “But recently pro bono has lost some of its glitter particularly outside the big City and regional firms.”