Source: p 127, Is Eating People Wrong? Great Legal Cases and How They Shaped the World (2011) by Allan C. Hutchinson

  Undaunted, Leechman made the final maneuver available to May – he applied for leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, the highest court of appeal for all cases in the United Kingdom, including Scottish cases. Her petition to appeal in forma pauperis was presented on February 26, 1931, and granted on March 17, 1931. All was now set for the final showdown in which there was much more at stake than the commercial relations between gingerbeer manufacturers and their clients.
  [Glaswegian Solicitor Walter] Leechman, but not May, traveled down to London to listen to arguments in December 1931. As was and remains the custom, local lawyers brief more senior counsel on such occasions. May was represented by George Morton (king’s counsel) and W[illiam] R. Milligan, who was later to become Scotland’s lord advocate.

The source above, Wikipedia and MRS. DONOGHUE’s JOURNEY1 by Martin R. Taylor QC all state that Solicitor Walter Leechman (altruistically, benevolently) acted freely to represent May Donoghue; but they do not clarify whether the two barristers (bolded above) were paid or pro bono?

1Originally published in Donoghue v Stevenson and the Modern Law of Negligence, Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, 1991

  • I really don't think you will find this out for an 80+ year old case: we don't even know the name of the friend who bought the ginger beer (and the snail)
    – Dale M
    Jan 30, 2016 at 6:34
  • @DaleM Recognising loss of information due to time, I thought to post this anyhow out of hope.
    – user89
    Jan 30, 2016 at 23:58

2 Answers 2


You have your answer already in the quotation you give.

Her petition to appeal in forma pauperis was presented on February 26, 1931, and granted on March 17, 1931

At that time the Appeals (Forma Pauperis) Act 1893 (56 & 57 Vict c 22) was in force. This created a limited form of legal assistance for paupers that paid for, amongst other things, counsel to appear before the House of Lords on appeal.

See the costs order made by the House of Lords on remitting the case.

  • It isn't unusual in the U.S. for an appeal in forma pauperis to involve a waiver of cost but not an appointment of an attorney, so the answer isn't an obvious one although I think you are correct.
    – ohwilleke
    May 2, 2017 at 18:37
  • I suspect that is a result of different costs traditions. May 2, 2017 at 21:42

I am fairly certain you will not find a definite answer to this: I recall hearing a High Court Judge rule that the question whether a barrister was acting pro bono was not permissible in court except on questions of costs.

However you should consider that until reforms in the 1990s, conditional fee agreements ('no win no fee') were strictly banned in England and Wales, under the rules for champerty and maintenance; and that Mrs May had sworn that she was unable to pay a solicitor, let alone two senior KCs.

(I have answered for England and Wales, since that is the tag, but it appears that actually the House of Lords was applying Scottish law: I have no reason to suppose there was any difference.)

You must log in to answer this question.