Pro bono is part of our DNA at Kingsley Napley. It is part of many fee earners’ weekly if not daily work. We have provided pro bono legal advice and services for several decades and it is now a cornerstone of the Responsible Business (RB) offering at the firm which I manage.
Alongside our work on charities and community, diversity and inclusion, wellbeing and environment, pro bono is an area that staff members are actively encouraged to take part in. The work counts towards billable time and, perhaps unusually compared to other firms, there is no hours cap on how much staff do.
In the last financial year to 30 April 2020, we recorded 3,310 chargeable pro bono hours over some 75 matters. Approximately 150 fee earners took part. Averaged across the firm, this worked out at 13 hours of pro bono time per fee earner.
Respect for the rule of law and the proper administration of justice, the assertion and defence of human rights including the right of access to justice, and challenging miscarriages of justice are principles which have always been at the heart of Kingsley Napley’s values. We continue to stand up for such principles and rights in a lot of the work we do on a pro bono basis.
When the pandemic hit we noticed an increased need generally from the voluntary organisations and charities we work with, typically smaller not-for profit organisations. We fundraised and donated monies where we could but also provided pro bono help.
Here are three examples of our recent pro bono work:
Dogs on the Streets (DOTS) is one of the charities that the firm supports. DOTS is a very small but mighty, multi award winning charity dedicated to the welfare of dogs belonging to the UK’s homeless community. DOTS is volunteer run, and provides mobile veterinary services at pop-up stations in London and other UK major cities as well as other essential items for dogs including check-ups and medication. Just before lockdown, our real estate and employment teams helped DOTS secure premises on the outskirts of London and finalise employment contracts for the on-site kennel staff. This allowed them to move into their kennels with plenty of land and to provide full time accommodation for dogs taken into temporary care. This facility came into its own when lockdown hit and many homeless people were taken off the streets and placed into hotels but were unable to take their dogs with them. DOTS put the dogs into temporary kennel accommodation and regularly updated the homeless owners with photos, videos and calls to ensure them that their dogs were being kept safe. We are pleased by the part we played in ensuring this facility was available.
Another example of pro bono in action during this pandemic has been our work for Z2K (Zacchaeus 2000 Trust), another small but impressive charity in London that assists people with their housing and welfare issues. We volunteer before the First Tier Tribunals in London helping Z2K clients to appeal welfare benefit refusals. We have been involved in this work for several years and it is one of our more established projects with approximately a fifth of our fee earning staff taking part from across the firm. Z2K has a success rate of over 80% at tribunal stage. Kingsley Napley volunteers regularly say how grateful they are to be able to take part in this work and help those individuals in our society who really do need help to access justice and navigate a system that seems designed to dissuade anyone from appealing.
In this the 19th Pro Bono Week, it is clear that law firms like Kingsley Napley are involved with a wide-range of pro bono work and are generously giving time, advice and assistance that makes a real difference on a local and international basis. As the voluntary sector reels from dealing with the pandemic and trying to continue services for their users, this support from lawyers is more important than ever.
Pro Bono Week helps remind us all what we can contribute as expert individuals and as a sector. However, most will agree that pro bono legal services are not, nor can they ever be, a substitute for a properly funded system of legal aid.
Linzi McDonald is pro bono and responsible business manager at Kingsley Napley LLP