5 November 2019
Tuesday 5 November saw the launch of the first Pro Bono Week in Ireland, a collaboration between leading law firms A&L Goodbody and Arthur Cox and pro bono organisations PILA (Public Interest Law Alliance, a project of the Free Legal Advice Centres) and TrustLaw (Thomson Reuters Foundation).
The new initiative celebrates the many lawyers who share their expertise with those that cannot afford legal assistance and highlights the need for increased pro bono participation from within the profession.
Pro Bono Week Ireland, which runs from 4-8 November 2019, was launched at an evening reception hosted by A&L Goodbody that showcased recent developments in pro bono practice and partnerships in Ireland. A panel of Irish speakers analysed how pro bono legal work has addressed some of the prevailing gaps in access to justice, particularly in the areas of housing and homelessness, immigration and disability law.
Julian Yarr, Managing Partner at A&L Goodbody, said: "We are immensely proud of our pro bono practice at A&L Goodbody. Our lawyers use their legal skills and knowledge to support civil society and, in turn individuals at the fringes of the justice system. Pro bono week is an opportunity to celebrate these achievements and to look forward on how we as a profession can work together to deliver even greater impact."
The week was also marked with a ‘Legal Health Check’ hosted by Arthur Cox where charities and social enterprises received free legal training in key areas like data protection, employment, charity law and commercial contracts.
Geoff Moore, Managing Partner at Arthur Cox commented: “We believe as a firm that we have a professional responsibility to help people who might otherwise fall through the cracks of our legal system. Through our pro bono practice we address areas of unmet legal need by providing pro bono services to low income and vulnerable people and to the NGOs that support them. We are delighted to host the Legal Health Check Clinic and to celebrate Pro Bono Week Ireland with our pro bono partners”.
According to Rachel Power, PILA & Strategic Development Manager, “For 10 years, PILA has worked to drive the pro bono movement in Ireland, ensuring that both lawyers and NGOs have the skills, knowledge and networks to use the law as a tool in tackling critical social problems.
This celebration comes at an exciting time, as more and more lawyers look to play a role in addressing unmet legal need. Pro bono is just one piece in the access to justice puzzle, but it is an important piece through which the legal profession can have tangible impact.”
Sarah Farrelly, Legal Manager at TrustLaw, outlined how pro bono has been growing rapidly at an international level, “TrustLaw has worked with legal teams globally for a decade, from small local firms in Kenya to international firms in the United States, to connect them with impactful organisations in their communities tackling key social and environmental issues.
By working together with pro bono organisations, lawyers can ensure that their valuable time spent doing pro bono work can have the most impact on the ground. Pro bono connections have resulted in changes to legislation and have bolstered advocacy and legal reform efforts to strengthen the rights of marginalised communities globally.”
The panel was joined by Wendy Young, President of KIND (Kids in Need of Defence), a US non-governmental organisation devoted to legal protection of unaccompanied and separated children. KIND is currently establishing a pilot project with the Irish Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council of Ireland that will provide pro bono legal representation to unaccompanied minors seeking family reunification.
“KIND is committed to serving kids across the globe, and we are thrilled to work with pro bono attorneys in Ireland to ensure every unaccompanied child has access to legal assistance in their efforts to reunify with their families. We look forward to harnessing our collective expertise to protect children as they seek a safer, more secure future,” Young said.