Young barristers are often asked to volunteer – by working for the Bar Pro Bono Unit, at a Legal Advice or Law Centre, or by providing services free to friends, relations or charities. There is no reason why you should not do this, and it can provide valuable experience.
The Bar Pro Bono Unit is a national charity that offers opportunities for barristers to make a contribution to the community. It matches members of the public with deserving cases but who are unable to obtain legal aid and cannot afford to pay for legal representation with barristers who are willing to donate their time and expertise for free. It also operates a trustee finding service for charities wishing to appoint legally qualified trustees. For more information see: http://www.barprobono.org.uk/overview.html.
The Free Representation Unit provides representation at tribunals in social security and employment cases. There has been a significant reduction in the number of cases being brought before the Employment Tribunals and a corresponding drop in the number of volunteers required, but applications are still welcome from junior barristers and would-be barristers at all stages of their legal training and early careers. See generally http://www.thefru.org.uk/volunteers.
Barristers may supply legal services (as defined in the BSB Handbook) at a Legal Advice Centre on a voluntary or part time basis so long as they observe the requirements of rS41-42 and gS9-11 of the Handbook. The BSB’s definition of “legal services” specifically excludes “giving advice on legal matters free to a friend or relative or acting as unpaid or honorary legal adviser to any charity benevolent or philanthropic institution”, so if you are acting in any of these capacities you need not hold a current practising certificate. The situation is different if you are employed by a Legal Advice Centre.