Our founding ethos commits us to do:
Worthwhile work to the best of our ability, for clients we respect … and always with a commitment to justice and the public interest.
As well as offering discounted fees to charities and social enterprises, we undertake a wide range of pro bono work – that is, work for which we do not charge a fee. This ranges from pro bono work on cases for organisations or individuals, through to volunteering for charities, law centres and other organisations.
We encourage and support all of our staff to be involved in pro bono work, recognising that it brings with it new experiences and insight for those who take part – and our staff tell us that they value this opportunity.
We aim to focus our pro bono activity where the need is greatest and where we can make the most effective contribution.
Individual Pro Bono Instructions
We will always aim to help, when possible, but unfortunately are not able to take on all the requests we receive for pro bono work.
Broadly speaking, these are the criteria we use to determine whether we can offer pro bono legal advice:
- Ability to fund by the client – many of our clients are charities and social enterprises undertaking important and worthwhile work. Our focus for pro bono work is on those who cannot afford to pay for legal advice.
- Availability of alternative funding – in some matters it may be more appropriate to work under a conditional fee arrangement.
- BWB’s capacity and competence to undertake the work – sometimes we cannot accept new pro-bono instructions because we are already committed to other pro bono work; and we may not always be the most appropriate option: for example, we do not deal with criminal matters.
- Public interest –we may take on a matter pro bono if important or novel legal issues are involved.
- Planting the seed corn – when some initial Pro Bono support would help to launch an exciting or worthwhile project towards self sufficiency. We will look at the organisation’s plans for the future to ensure that we focus our help on those organisations with the most viable plans and where our input can be most strategic.
- Current clients – this is not to say we will turn away non-clients, but if a current client needed assistance that fitted these criteria we would be more likely to assist.
- Personal interest of our lawyers – our pro-bono work is undertaken on a voluntary basis, so if a member of staff is willing to commit to a project, we are more likely to support them.
- Referrals from other organisations – cases that are referred to us by LawWorks or Advocates for International Development are more likely to meet our pro bono criteria. We also offer a free meeting for advice on property law to clients who are referred to us by the Ethical Property Foundation.
Virtually every team at BWB has charity clients and we regard it as a high priority for our people to get involved as charity trustees. We currently hold over 60 voluntary trusteeships, school governorships and similar positions across the firm.
If you are seeking a trustee for your charity, get in touch with your usual contact at BWB, or use the Trustees Unlimited service.
South West London Law Centres (SWLLC)
BWB is a partner of South West London Law Centres (SWLLC). SWLLC works across six South West London boroughs helping thousands of people every year who would otherwise be unable to afford the services of a lawyer.
Our partners, solicitors, trainees and paralegals volunteer at SWLLC's drop in, pro bono advice clinic in Croydon, advising on matters including debt, employment and housing as well as general litigation and consumer law. The clinic's aim is to empower clients to resolve their problems themselves, but volunteers also carry out follow-up work, including drafting documents and writing letters on clients' behalf.
Paul Jennings, a solicitor in the Employment team, was nominated for a LawWorks 2012 Pro Bono Award for Best Contribution by an Individual, as well as a SWLLC Outstanding Contribution award in recognition of the pro bono work that he did for one of SWLLC's clients. Paul Jennings was assisted by Victoria Slater and Fara Hosseini.
Our staff also volunteer at Holborn CAB and a legal clinic operated by Kalayaan to give migrant domestic workers free advice on immigration law.
Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal
We work with the charity IPSEA – Independent Parental Special Education Advice – to provide advice and representation for parents at Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunals.
Access to our pro bono services
Please note that we receive many requests for pro bono advice. Most of our pro bono work is taken on through referrals from agencies where we have an established relationship or through contacts with existing clients. If you contact our pro bono co-ordinators for help, we are more likely to be able to assist if you explain how you meet the criteria for pro bono support, which are set out above.
Pro bono is only one part of our wider Corporate Social Responsibility programme. For information about other ways in which BWB is supporting our community and the environment, see the Corporate Social Responsibility section of our website.