This page offers advice for IP professionals who would like to become involved in the work of IP Pro Bono, either as a volunteer case worker or as an assisting firm. Please use the contact form to volunteer your services as an IP professional.
Become a case officer
The IP Pro Bono service has been started with a very small group of voluntary case officers who meet regularly and develop a consistent policy for deciding who qualifies for assistance.
A case officer needs a certain amount of time to be able to sift through papers and make an assessment of the applicant's eligibility and the type of firm that would be able to provide advice. Case officers need to be able to provide a sympathetic ear and be able to understand the problem and tease out any necessary facts that will be needed to establish whether help is appropriate.
The case officer will not be providing the assistance to the applicant themselves, but will refer them to a firm who has indicated a willingness to help. The case officer will make the introduction between the applicant (the 'assisted party') and the firm. The assisting firm will then establish a client relationship with the assisted party. This would be like any other client relationship except there will be a pro bono relationship with the assisted party and a provision for termination at a particular stage in the proceedings or on the conditions that may have been negotiated by the case officer.
The case officer will not generally need to stay in touch with the assisted party until the matter is resolved. The scheme provides for the assisted party to make a new application for further assistance, if required, at a later date. At that point, the request for assistance will be assessed afresh. It may help (and be up to the case officers) if the same case officer performs the assessment and referral if the assisted party needs alternative or further assistance.
All firms and IP sole practitioners must be prepared to provide services using fully qualified and regulated staff to supervise the work provided to the assisted party. Firms will be expected to provide a normal client care letter to the assisted party. IP Pro Bono has a precedent letter, if required.
If you are prepared to help, please let us know what areas of expertise in contentious matters you could support. You may be contacted by a case officer asking for assistance for a party seeking help. If it doesn’t sound right for your firm, you are allowed to refuse and the case officer will look for another firm. If things are not going well, you can approach IP Pro Bono or, if they are willing, the case officer who originally handled the matter at any time to try and negotiate a transition or bring in further assistance. We need this to work for the assisting firms, the assisted parties and the case officers so it is important issues are raised as soon as possible.
There is no obligation for IP firms in England to undertake pro bono work. Many firms prefer to deliver their corporate social responsibility obligations by providing services unrelated to their core business. However, if you have a particular expertise which could be of great value to someone who could not otherwise afford to be a client of your firm, there is some satisfaction in being able to use your skill to resolve a problem that might grow into a nightmare for a person or business if he, she or it is unable to afford proper professional advice at the right time.