This month TrustLaw, Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal programme, co-hosted the first ever European Pro Bono Week. The week, which involved legal events and workshops across 11 cities in the region, was organised collaboratively by a number of leading law firms from the European Pro Bono Alliance, and more than 40 pro bono clearinghouses and organisations.
Covering four of the pro bono days in Dublin, Milan, Madrid and Lisbon, the TrustLaw Europe team organised “Legal Health Check” workshops for non-profit organisations and social enterprises and also spoke on legal panels to highlight key trends in the pro bono sector.
According to Sarah Farrelly, TrustLaw Legal Manager, stakeholders are becoming increasingly more enthusiastic about high-quality pro bono work: “The desire of legal teams to work on impactful pro bono projects was evident throughout the week, with a notable shift towards a focus on quality rather than quantity. In-house counsel teams also clearly expressed their interest in building their pro bono practices, which often involves working in partnership with law firms across the region to do so.”
In the nine years that TrustLaw has been operating in Europe, 2019 has showcased an incredible commitment to grow the pro bono ecosystem through collaboration. “We are truly excited to see the sharing of pro bono best practices across the region, which will enable pro bono to not only thrive in existing markets, but to also grow in new markets. We are already looking forward to hearing of further successes, and learning from challenges, at next year’s Pro Bono Week”, said Shiura Rasheed, TrustLaw’s Operations Lead and EMENA Programme Manager.
Comments from Pro Bono Day Italy – Adriano Mancinelli - Programme Manager, UK and Northern Europe:
“It is a challenging time for non-profits in Italy. The Third Sector Reform - which has developed over the last three years but is not yet fully implemented - will mean that all organisations wishing to keep their non-profit status and privileges will have to adapt their articles by June 2020, and this will more than likely need the support of lawyers and notaries.”
“In 2020, the challenges for the pro bono sector in Italy will be twofold: new ways to support the network of informal associations and individual campaigners seeking access to legal advice will need to be found, and it must also be ensured that the existing organisations required to amend their articles of association due to regulatory changes can do so easily, with the confidence that they are choosing the most efficient governance structure for their activities.” Read more.
Comments from Pro Bono Day Ireland – Sarah Farrelly- Legal Manager, Europe, Middle East & North Africa
“With the announcement last week that the 2020 annual pro bono conference, PILnet Global Forum,
will be held for the first time in Dublin, it is a very exciting time for pro bono in Ireland. The past year has seen the appointment of two full time pro bono associates at two of the leading law firms, A&L Goodbody and Arthur Cox, which has had a major impact on the speed with which pro bono is growing, alongside the trojan work of local clearinghouse PILA (Public Interest Law Alliance, a project of the Free Legal Advice Centres) since it was established in 2009.”
“The evening panel event highlighted an encouraging development in the social enterprise space – the publication in July by the Irish Government of the first ever strategy on social enterprise for the country. TrustLaw hosted its first workshop for social enterprises in Ireland in 2018 and the team are excited to continue working with leading social enterprise networks to foster the growth of this vital sector.” Read more.
Comments from Pro Bono Day Spain – Jose Raul Celda- Programme Manager, Southern Europe and MENA
“There is a strong need to promote legal pro bono in Spain as 73% of Spanish non-profits don’t understand legal pro bono or how to access it. Yet the organisation’s participating in the panel highlighted several reasons as to why pro bono is important:
1) The third sector cannot operate outside the law without it.
2) Most associations and non-profits do not have a specialised legal representative - in fact, the majority do not have a lawyer among their staff.
3) Spanish non-profits do not have enough money or free funds to pay for legal advice and;
4) There is a need for the voices of legal experts to demand the fulfilment of certain collective rights.”
Comments from Pro Bono Day Portugal - Jose Raul Celda - Programme Manager, Southern Europe and MENA
“To promote the strengthening of civil society, there is a strong need for strategic alliances between lawyers, the third sector and the academic world. In Portugal, pro bono is still nascent, with the demand for pro bono not being met with enough responses. Having said this, the pro bono day ended on a promising note as a group of lawyers and law firms signed a commitment letter to help meet the need for pro bono.” Read more.
Comments from Pro Bono Week UK – Emily Donnan-Courtade - Programme Officer, EMENA
“Overall, UK Pro Bono Week was a great opportunity to bring the pro bono community together to share good practices, insights and successes. We all too often work in silos, forgetting to share and draw upon the knowledge of organisations or individuals who share the same passion for pro bono work. It is through partnership, and shared voices, that the UK pro bono community can be further strengthened and become a true force to be reckoned with.”
If your organisation is interested in receiving pro bono legal advice or if your law firm is interested in developing its pro bono work, please get in touch with the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s TrustLaw team here.