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Denise JaggerThe Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG) hailed a change of mood last month as four new in-house departments signed up to a pro bono initiative aimed at corporate lawyers.In-house teams at Citibank, Schroders Salomon Smith Barney, Asda and Lloyds TSB pledged their support to the new initiative ‘Law Works in the Community’.They join BAe, Zurich Financial Services and Ford Credit Bank, all of which already have pro bono schemes in place.The Law Works in the Community initiative has been set up to source free business advice to community groups on a voluntary basis.In-house groups are called on to participate in one of three ways – by doing pro bono work in-house: by encouraging law firms to do pro bono work or by giving financial support.Terence Black, treasurer, structured finance at BAe Systems, and trustee of the SPBG has said that in-house teams should sign up. He has also reiterated his call for clients to insist that their legal advisers do pro bono work. “Law firms may be businesses in part, but lawyers are also professionals,” Black said. “The lawyers I go to are professionals and therefore do pro bono work – as far as I am concerned, it goes hand in hand,’ Sue Bucknall, director of the SPBG said: “I have been enormously encouraged by the support of the groups. We are still in the very early stages of in-house pro bono work, but the mood is definitely changing.”The in-house pro bono cause was boosted at the beginning of this year when the Law Society agreed to relax its requirements to enable in-house lawyers to do pro bono work. Law Society rules previously prohibited in-house counsel from acting for third parties.Following negotiations with Paul Gilbert, pro bono officer at the Commerce & Industry group, in-house legal departments can now apply for a block three-year exemption to allow for pro bono advice.

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