As Pro Bono Week draws to a close, Senior Partner John Gould reflects on the continuing importance of legal aid lawyers and their work. 

I applaud all of those lawyers who give their time and expertise without payment to help others. In a pressured working environment finding time to make a social contribution can be very challenging, but there are benefits both ways. For firms who undertake work on that basis, it demonstrates some of the values to which they should aspire. For individuals working in a narrow specialist field in broadens their expertise and the range of people with whom they deal. For many larger firms it is an essential ingredient in helping their people keep a sense of proportion in circumstances in which so many lawyers must focus on money and property and everything related to it. Many of our lawyers give up their spare time to advise in their communities.

We should not forget, however, the very large number of lawyers whose day job is motivated by their values and a sense of social responsibility. I am talking, of course, about those lawyers who work for legally aided clients. Their work is hard and their pay is poor but without them the very fabric of justice would be threatened.

Russell-Cooke supports legally aided work in a modest way by having a strategic target to reserve 5% of its turnover for legally aided work. As the firm's revenue grows and legal aid rates become ever more unrealistic, this is not an easy target to achieve notwithstanding the numbers of people needing help.

Our approach means having leading lawyers working in areas such as childcare, housing and criminal defence who are properly resourced and paid. As well as being brilliant lawyers, they make a huge contribution to the culture and values of the firm. Compared to all those dedicated lawyers whose firms concentrate on legally aided work, it is a small contribution and one from which we benefit, but for each individual client facing the potential break-up of their family, homelessness or imprisonment, nothing is more important.

What matters is that lawyers and firms make a social contribution in whatever way they can. The way things are opportunities are limitless.