A bespoke legal representation service for asylum seekers is an example of the kind of innovative CSR activity being undertaken by top law firm and BITC member A&L Goodbody with the help of the Public Interest Law Alliance.
Established in 2009, PILA is a project of legal rights organisation Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC). The PILA Project operates a pro bono referral scheme that matches the legal needs of NGOs, law centres and community organisations with barristers and solicitors and law firms who have signed up to PILA’s Pro Bono Register.
Pro bono is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means “for the public good”. It generally refers to legal services provided for free or at a reduced rate. Legal practitioners have specialised skills which are incredibly useful to organisations and community groups. This type of Pro bono programme is an excellent way of contributing towards a wider CSR strategy. “A well-structured pro bono programme is an important hallmark of law firm’s commitment to being responsible and sustainable,” says PILA Coordinator Rachel Power.
Law firms’ growing interest in pro bono work and how it can form part of their CSR commitment is reflected in the fact that PILA currently has 220 individual lawyers and 14 law firms on its Pro Bono Register.
There has been strong growth of formal CSR programmes and activities in the legal sector in recent years, although there has always been a tradition of lawyers in Ireland undertaking pro bono work on an informal or ad hoc basis.
In 2013, PILA helped A&L Goodbody and the Irish Refugee Council Law Centre to develop a special partnership. This involves A&L Goodbody working on a pro bono basis with the IRC Law Centre to provide legal representation to applicants in the first stage of the asylum process. In April 2013, the IRC Law Centre organised a customised refugee law training course for the team of 28 A&L Goodbody lawyers. This has been followed up with additional training on practice and procedure and ongoing shadowing and mentoring with the Law Centre team. The Irish Times profiled this special partnership in a recent report.
Another top flight law firm and BITC Member, Mason Hayes & Curran, has also undertaken pro bono legal advice referrals and provided legal education training sessions through PILA.
Separately, the Bar Council of Ireland operates a matchmaking service called the Voluntary Assistance Scheme, connecting non-governmental organisations and community groups with barristers.
PILA’s 2013 Progress Report is free to download.
Kim Watts – Public Interest Law Alliance firstname.lastname@example.org