In 2010, Monique Villa had an idea. She thought the Thomson Reuters Foundation could play an instrumental role in bridging NGOs, social enterprises and lawyers working pro bono - in other words - providing legal assistance for free.
Her plan was ambitious, Monique wanted to start a global programme to amplify and spread a practice traditionally rooted in countries such as the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. She was told her idea would never work, even by those operating within the pro bono space.
Fast forward five years, and TrustLaw is now a fast-growing programme with 2,800 members in over 170 countries, including more than 500 law firms. And most importantly, since inception, TrustLaw managed to leverage $70 million in pro bono legal assistance around the world.
“When we launched TrustLaw in 2010, I could have not anticipated this huge growth and strong impact,“ said Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Monique Villa while speaking at the TrustLaw Awards, the yearly event honouring some of the groundbreaking pro bono projects undertaken by the programme. “We continue to grow by the week – said Monique – because of an increased appetite for pro bono, not just from beneficiaries, but also from lawyers who are willing and excited to donate their brain power to social change”.
Held at the Landmark Hotel in London, this year’s TrustLaw Award brought together over 250 members of the global TrustLaw community who travelled from the USA, Argentina, Spain, South Africa, India, and Thailand for the event.
Keynote speakers Gayle Peterson, co-founder of the international philanthropic consultancy Partners for Change Social Impact Advisors and Muna Wehbe, Chief Executive Officer of Stars Foundation, kicked off the evening with an insightful conversation on effective non-profit leadership.
During the event Monique Villa announced the winners:
The Collaboration Award went to Reporters without Borders and 70 lawyers from Paul Hastings for producing a 200-page Handbook on Freedom of Expression for Journalists and Bloggers. A crucial tool.
The Impact Award went to UnLtd and Orrick who worked together across 9 countries to understand how to lock social mission into social purpose businesses.
The Innovation Award went Perez Alati, Grondona, Benites, Arntsen & Martinez de Hoz which led seven other firms and corporate counsel including Hewlett-Packard Company, Garcia Sayan Abogados, Ferrada Nehme Limitada, Posse Herrera Ruiz, Romero Arteta Ponce Asociados Cia Ltda, Machado, Meyer Sendacz e Opice and Guevara & Gutierrez SC - Servicios Legales to provide Techo with research on laws relating to the right to housing, forced evictions and "squatters rights" across Latin America.
The Lawyer of the Year Award, honoured Hyo Joo Kim, Aoife McCabe, Katie Peek and Frances Stocks from Latham & Watkins in London, UK for their outstanding commitment to pro bono. NGO and social enterprise members were asked to nominate a lawyer or team of lawyers who demonstrated extraordinary commitment to a pro bono project.
The TrustLaw Anniversary Award, in celebration of our 5th birthday went to White & Case, who has been the most supportive right from the start, taking on more than one hundred cases including big programmes that are cross-border.