My Pro Bono Story
This UK Pro Bono Week 2022, we celebrated our Firm’s pro bono achievements through ‘My Pro Bono Story’ – a video showcasing the breadth of pro bono work done by our staff members. From assisting refugees fleeing from persecution and war, to providing real estate advice to set-up a new social enterprise café; from supporting vulnerable clients access much needed disability benefit payments, to assisting individuals with understanding their employment rights; pro bono work takes many forms.
The continuing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the effect of global shocks and a worsening cost of living crisis in the UK have combined to leave many people facing hardship. Charities, social enterprises and community organisations have found their resources over-stretched as the need for their services and support has surged. Over the last 12 months, we have responded by deploying our core business skills, sharing our resources and the expertise of our people with charities and non-profit organisations, supporting them to deliver for their beneficiaries. Pro bono work plays a critical role supporting small, frontline non-profit organisations, allowing them to direct more of their scarce resources to their beneficiaries. In a cost of living crisis where the state and society is relying on small charities to deliver access to life-sustaining services, the role of pro bono lawyers has never been more important.
I’ve worked with colleagues from different teams across different offices on a number of Disability Benefits Appeals. We also recently joined forces with a key client, Atkins Global. It is truly rewarding and just the best feeling when you get a successful result for our client because we know it’ll have a significant impact on their day-to-day lives.
Employment rights are meaningless to those that don’t know what they are or how to enforce them. The Employment Team runs a weekly clinic to support people in precarious and low-paid jobs to understand and assert their rights against sometimes unscrupulous or ill-informed employers. It’s really interesting and fulfilling work, providing a much-needed service to vulnerable members of the community who would not otherwise be able to access advice and support on a range of employment matters.
I supported a judicial review challenge of the UK Government’s response to the Windrush scandal on behalf of Anthony Brown, a Windrush survivor, and I’m proud to have been able to contribute to the Windrush Generation’s fight for justice.
I completed a secondment with the European Lawyers in Lesvos at their office in Athens, assisting Greek lawyers to prepare refugees for life-changing asylum interviews. Despite not having any background in refugee law, I was able to assist with interviews and applications and played a part in supporting applicants from countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia and the DRC who would face dire consequences if their applications were rejected and they were deported to their country of origin.
Working on Pro Bono cases allows me to reconnect with why I became a lawyer which is to help people. My pro bono work has ranged from assisting in the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos with European Lawyers in Lesvos and more recently assisting both Afghan and Ukrainian refugees flee from persecution.
When a callout was sent for CSE support on our Pro Bono projects, I couldn’t wait to get involved. I’ve been assisting CRS teams working with individuals trying to navigate the complex welfare benefit system and appeal their much-needed disability benefit payments. Providing my everyday skills to support on cases like this has been a fantastic experience, and I feel so proud to work for a Firm which enables collaborations like this across teams.
I have been assisting a Geneva-based NGO that provides an electronic platform for lawyers and other NGOs to store and manage files on investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and trials for such offences, by reviewing their contracts with their contractors, clients and employees. We’re spread over about 25 countries and I’m very proud to work at a Firm that supports me with doing Pro Bono work like this.
I was delighted to work with the Pro Bono team to improve the technology platform they use to manage the Firm’s Disability Benefits Appeal work with Z2K. As the initiative was expanding to include more lawyers as well as the in-house team at our client, Atkins Global, we switched to HighQ meaning that the information for the initiative (including training materials and specific case documents) are now more easily accessed by all of those involved. As a team, it is really rewarding to be able to support vulnerable individuals in their fight for justice with the use of our innovation technology tools.
I worked closely with The Matrix Trust to provide real estate advice and assistance to set up a social enterprise café close to our office in Guildford. It was extremely rewarding to be able to be part of such a local project which is working to support the lives of vulnerable young people in our community.
I used my everyday corporate expertise to advise on and assist Everyday Plastic with finalising their recent collaboration agreement with Greenpeace. Being able to play a small part in their incredible environmental work and their ultimate aim of reducing plastic waste in the UK was a rare and invaluable experience.
The Family Team have advised two clients a week remotely in the Plymouth area about their family law rights. Without legal aid or a law centre anywhere in the area, they would otherwise have had no access to advice for example on how to restore contact with their children.
I first worked on a Disability Benefit Appeal when I was relatively new as a Trainee to the Firm which was a great way to collaborate and build relationships with colleagues, but most importantly it was so rewarding assisting our client, a 50 year old male with a number of physical mobility issues as well as severe anxiety and depression, to win £152.15 a week in restored benefit payments, which was a life-changing amount for someone who is incredibly vulnerable.
I have been volunteering with the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Clinic for a little over six years and with CRS, I have been involved in creating a partnership with the clinics in order to help people who work within the DIFC. I have seen the profound and fundamental difference that the clinic has had, the impact it’s had on people’s lives and improving their lot as employees.
I’ve been giving Housing Law advice to clients through the Firm’s collaboration with Bethnal Green Legal Advice Clinic for almost a year now. This has enabled me to develop my practical skills and my ability to build good rapport with clients during a single interaction. I find it very rewarding to be able to help vulnerable clients see a light at the end of the tunnel, especially in some of the more lengthy and sensitive matters.
We are very proud of our continuing dedication to access to justice work through our Pro Bono Practice. To find out more, contact our Pro Bono Associate, Sarah Farrelly.