It was the growing presence of US law firms in London that resulted in systemised pro bono activity, with their requirement to be seen to discharge Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Pro bono work is increasingly undertaken by major law firms, law schools and larger in-house legal teams, most of whom have pro bono programs, often in partnership with local community law centres or pro bono organisations. Commensurately, therefore, there are more full-time positions as in-firm pro bono managers and coordinators. Liaising with lawyers, meeting with local law centres and community projects, drafting pro bono policies and procedures, developing projects and programmes etc.
There is a huge variety in the nature of pro bono work, and so too, potentially, in the development of a firm's pro bono policy. It is not just limited to debt, housing, family, employment etc.. Larger city firms will be involved in transactional support to non-profit organisations and community entities, international development and policy advocacy, human rights, international cases and transactions etc. Pro bono work may encompass pure community social action projects as well as those specifically utilising legal skills.
The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) remit is rather wider, incorporating ethics, environmental issues such as climate change and carbon footprints, and diversity for example.
For pro bono umbrella bodies and further information:
The pro bono network LawWorks is the operating name of the Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG) - "an independent charity with a mission to support, promote and encourage a commitment to pro bono across the solicitors' profession." The SPBG offers training courses for the individual, and coordinates lawyers with projects and requests for legal assistance from non-profit groups in its aim "to increase the delivery of free legal advice to individuals and communities in need." The Bar Pro Bono Unit provides a similar function, a national charity which helps to coordinate pro bono legal assistance from volunteer barristers. The Institute of Legal Executes has the ILEX Pro Bono Forum. A web-based resource is www.probonouk.net, aiming to develop and coordinate an online community of pro bono providers.
A history of involvement with pro bono work is obviously going to aid transition to a role managing in-firm or in-college pro bono schemes.
Also, see 'Policy Advocacy'.