Each year Shoosmiths issues a CR challenge to its first-year trainees and our 2019/2020 project was to ask our 28 trainees under appropriate supervision to provide legal advice to organisations that are addressing any of the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) in the UK. This was the third consecutive year the challenge has been pro bono focused.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed by United Nations member states defining 17 global priorities for sustainable development to be delivered by 2030. Together the global goals set out an ambitious agenda for a better world by 2030 – fairer, safer, healthier, more prosperous and in better balance with nature. The goals and the 169 associated targets are interdependent.
The goals are relevant to the UK and companies have a role to play, both by achieving positive good but also collaborating with other organisations to leverage positive change.
Just some of the work our trainees undertook included:
- Our Milton Keynes trainees continued the operation of pro bono clinics run by Milton Keynes Citizens Advice, providing alternating fortnightly advice on housing and employment matters. The trainees also introduced a serious injury clinic service and the clinic switched to a virtual service as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
- Our Manchester trainees assisted principal associate Anita Shepherd in advising on family law matters at the Legal Advice Clinic set up in the city and which takes place on the last Friday of every month at the Civil Justice Centre. The trainees developed a comprehensive crib sheet to gather basis information from the client during an initial interview by one of the trainees or student volunteer, to enable the legal adviser to focus more time on advising rather than on gathering facts. The clinic has also now switched to a virtual service.
- Our Leeds trainees have been supporting principal associate Jen Clarke who co-ordinates our involvement with the Manuel Bravo project. The charity provides legal representation to asylum seekers who would otherwise have none. Again, virtual support continues to be provided during the crisis.
- Our London trainee has been assisting a charity with the proposed granting of a lease for a Victorian walled garden at a hospital for the benefit of visitors and patients as well as the local community.
- Our Edinburgh trainee has been co-ordinating the Edinburgh office’s continued involvement in the pro bono clinic service operated by Edinburgh Citizens Advice with advice provided to clients on real estate and employment matters.
- Our Thames Valley trainees created and presented an employment law briefing for 16 and 17-year-olds at a local school in Reading. The briefing included addressing differences between the types of employment contracts, rules on sick pay and mandatory work breaks, protections against discrimination, and the efforts to tackle the proliferation of COVID-19 in the workplace.
The challenge has helped the trainees to practise and develop new skills that will equip them well for the future when they qualify. These included client- facing opportunities and taking ownership of client matters as well as soft skills such as interview techniques, having empathy with the client and team working in order to collaborate and manage projects.
Danielle Owens, head of recruitment and Nicola Ellen, corporate responsibility consultant, had the difficult task of choosing three award winners and were pleased with everyone’s efforts. The trainees as a team had really got behind the challenge, supporting existing pro bono programmes, volunteering to advise on ad hoc received approaches as well as taking the initiative to investigate new pro bono services.
Nevertheless, as with all challenges there were awards to be decided and for the 2019/2020 Shoosmiths trainee challenge the awards were made to the following colleagues:
- Best overall trainee award for the trainee with the most empowering Shoosmiths SDGs pro bono programme – congratulations to Maeve Honey, Verity Hudson, Zila Lwanda and Abigail Wood in Shoosmiths’ Manchester office;
- Best participation award for the trainee who achieved the most employee engagement and participation – congratulations to Oliver Clarke, Louise Mooney, Foster Mukhwapa, Gaby Omole, George Peyton and Kathryn Williamson in the Shoosmiths’ Milton Keynes office; and
- Best ambassador award for the trainee who best spread the word about the role Shoosmiths is playing in delivering the SDGs – congratulations Dan Stamford in the Shoosmiths’ London office.
Nicola commended the work of everyone involved. ‘Pro bono provision has always been important to Shoosmiths and never more so than now. We thank our first-year trainee group for helping us to step up our approach to pro bono. We encourage them to continue providing free legal advice to individuals and organisations in need throughout their careers, thereby making effective use of the lawyer’s unique skills’.