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Content last updated: November 22, 2023

Pro Bono Costs Orders

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Pro Bono Costs Orders are largely not (presently!) available in Northern Ireland.

Pro Bono Costs Orders are only available in relation to environmental cases under The Costs Protection (Aarhus Convention) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013.

They are, however, an incredibly useful tool in public interest litigation. We have therefore included them in this toolkit to explain how they work in other jurisdictions in the UK, and to encourage you to help us advocate for their wider introduction in Northern Ireland.

Pro Bono Costs Orders apply where one party is obtaining professional legal advice or representation pro bono, meaning the barrister or solicitor is providing their services for free.

Generally, a barrister or solicitor acting pro bono is not entitled to recover costs in the form of professional fees because the party that they are representing has not incurred costs in the form of professional fees.

However, Pro Bono Cost Orders allow a successful party, who was provided with services pro bono, to seek to recover costs against the unsuccessful party. The amount is based on what a fee-paying client would recover, and are paid into a fund which distributes the money to agencies and projects that provide free legal advice.

Pro Bono Costs Orders help to even the playing field between parties in litigation. Presently, where an organisation is receiving services pro bono, the opposing party does not bear a costs risk, whereas the organisation bears a significant risk of costs if they are not successful. Where legal practitioners have access to Pro Bono Costs Orders, they are able to use the risk of costs as an incentive for the opposing party to consider settling the case.