In praise of: Mr Justice Knowles
‘The great and the good’ has slipped into becoming a rather pejorative term used to describe the elites who run British institutions, but it can properly be used in a non-derogatory way to describe Sir Robin Knowles CBE, the High Court judge and pro bono champion.
Sir Robin was a highly regarded commercial silk prior to being appointed to the High Court two years ago. Among his many pro bono activities, he is the chair of the Bar Pro Bono Unit, and he also chairs the Civil Justice Council’s working party on access to justice for litigants in person.
Those who work with him are in awe of the time he manages to devote to the organisations with which he is involved. Sir Robin has been involved to some degree with just about every initiative around pro bono in recent years (including pro bono week this month), often using his many contacts and discreet style of advocacy to bring disparate organisations and individuals together.
In all that he does, Sir Robin is motivated by a deep commitment to access to justice and simply to do good. Outside his legal work, he is involved in the children’s hospice movement: proud of his East End roots, he is the chair of Richard House, which was the first children’s hospice in London.
Perhaps the best tribute that can be paid to Sir Robin, though, is that he is not content just to sit on committees. When the situation demands, he is prepared to make the phone calls or draft the papers that make the difference between talking about a problem and getting something done.