Shoosmiths took part in a number of events to support the 10th annual National Pro Bono Week which took place 7 to 11 November 2016.
Launch of Pro Bono Charter
On Monday 7 November Nicola Ellen, Shoosmiths Corporate Responsibility Consultant attended the Law Society inaugural event of the week where the Law Society launched the Pro Bono Charter (Shoosmiths has become a signatory) and Manual. The Charter is a statement of commitment that firms and in-house teams are invited to sign up to and is a public commitment by legal practices to promote pro bono opportunities throughout their business, to help support this goal.
The Pro Bono Manual sets out the steps legal practices may take in order to develop a strategic pro bono programme, and includes template policies, engagement letters, memorandums of understanding as well as best practice guidance and information about strategic partners within the sector.
Birmingham Student Pro Bono Conference
On Tuesday 8 November 2016 the Shoosmiths Birmingham office hosted a Birmingham Student Pro Bono Conference organised by BPP and the University of Birmingham and attended by over 70 students from university law schools across the city. The theme for the conference was ‘Pro Bono: Challenges and Opportunities’ with a number talks and workshops targeted at law students.
Linden Thomas explained ‘The conference began with a welcome speech from the organisers, Lucy Burrows of BPP Law School and Linden Thomas from the University of Birmingham Law School. Lucy and Linden set the scene for the afternoon’s discussions, which were to explore the challenges and opportunities presented by pro bono from the point of view of many different stakeholders, including clients, students, commercial law firms and legal aid lawyers.
Joe Egan, Vice President of The Law Society, started proceedings, by delivering an overview of pro bono services from a national perspective. Joe stressed the opportunities that pro bono offers not only to those who receive it, but also to those who deliver it. However, Joe’s comments were measured and reminded delegates of the importance of the rule of law and vital role of a well-funded legal aid system.
Joe was followed by Charlotte Rook of the Birmingham Personal Support Unit, who outlined the opportunities that pro bono volunteers have offered to provide assistance to the growing number of litigants in person seeking to navigate their way through the Court system. Charlotte also provided a stark insight into the challenges of meeting such huge demand with limited resources.
Next we heard from students Christopher Walker and Sacha Hibbett from the University of Birmingham about the challenges and opportunities they have faced as student pro bono volunteers. Time management was a key challenge, whilst developing legal practice skills and a chance to ‘give something back’ were identified as key opportunities.
Nicola Ellen from Shoosmiths then gave an insightful and inspiring talk on the potential for commercial law firms to turn pro bono challenges into pro bono opportunities, which led perfectly into an interactive session in which students were asked to identify pro bono challenges and opportunities for key stakeholders: lawyers; clients; and students.
The conference culminated in a panel debate with Hannah Short, trainee and Nicola Ellen from Shoosmiths LLP, No5 Chambers, Birmingham Community Law Centre, LawWorks and the University of Birmingham.
“The student perspectives on pro bono given in the conference were incredibly helpful, and particularly relevant to me at this time. Having gone into the conference with some doubts overhanging my decision to become so involved in pro bono, I left feeling excited about the year to come. The students confirmed that every minute set aside to carry out some pro bono work is reciprocated tenfold in fulfilment and pride… The afternoon truly highlighted the far reaching benefits of pro bono work, and it is a group I am now even prouder to be a part of.”
Charlotte Westby, Second Year Law Student, University of Birmingham
“Thank you so much for the invaluable information you provided me that I was able gain through attending the conference and hopefully apply by getting involved in Pro Bono work through my three years at university. Once again thank you for such an engaging and interactive Pro Bono Conference.” Ibrar Mumtaz, First Year Law Student, Birmingham City University.
The Great Legal Quiz
On Wednesday 9November four Shoosmiths teams locally took part and sponsored ‘The Great Legal Quiz’ hosted in Northampton by the University of Northampton School of Law helping to raise more than £400 for the Midland Legal Support Trust.
Citizenship Foundation Workshop highlights volunteering opportunities for the sector
Finally on Friday 11 November Nicola Ellen joined a workshop organised by Citizenship Foundation highlighting opportunities for the sector to provide professional volunteering support. Ruth Dwight, Programmes Director – Corporate Partnerships, Citizenship Foundation explained “Friday’s National Pro Bono Week event saw over 40 legal professionals come together to experience micro tasters of volunteering opportunities suited specifically to lawyers. All these opportunities benefit tremendously from their volunteers’ legal expertise – from school governors and charity trustees, to providing public legal education in schools and within the wider community. The Citizenship Foundation was thrilled to see so much interest from the guests attending in the opportunities available and the impact that their expertise can have outside of their own day to day work.“
To read more about the legal quiz go to: http://www.northampton.ac.uk/news/legal-eagles-raise-hundreds-of-pounds-for-those-who-cant-afford-legal-advice/