Not-for-profit need for pro bono, City limits, and lateral flow testing: your letters to the editor

Not-for-profit need for pro bono

I read Jonathan Rayner’s article detailing the importance of pro bono legal advice for small charities, which may otherwise be unable to function without the support (Gazette, 27 September).


At LawWorks (the Solicitors Pro Bono Group), a charity that connects pro bono solicitors with people and not-for-profit organisations in need of free legal advice, we have seen first-hand the difference that pro bono support can make to smaller charities. Our Not-for-Profits Programme exists in order to facilitate pro bono advice for such organisations, which make up around 96% of all charities in the UK, according to the UK Civil Society Almanac 2021 (our service users have an income of up to £500,000, with most operating on significantly less).


Last year, over half of the charities and not-for-profit organisations supported by LawWorks stated that they had relied on their pro bono solicitor for essential governance advice. Meanwhile, around 40% stated that the money saved by receiving free support made an active, positive difference to their ability to deliver services. Receiving this practical support, and freeing up financial resources to ensure the continuation of services, is crucial in ensuring that such organisations remain functioning.


Pro bono legal advice was especially important for smaller charities during the Covid-19 pandemic. As noted in the article, many small charities were particularly affected by the ‘trauma’ of the pandemic. The use of this word is apt, with the Not-for-Profits Programme sadly seeing an unprecedented increase in applications for legal support for insolvency proceedings during 2020.


The pandemic produced the #NeverMoreNeeded hashtag to garner support for the charity sector during a difficult time. In the pandemic’s aftermath, it stands to follow that pro bono support for charities – made possible by solicitors across the profession – is also never more needed.


Debjani Biswas-Hawkes

Head of the Not-for-Profits Programme, LawWorks, London


Should we work with guilty lenders?

As an MLRO/MLCO/SRO for CQS etc for my firm, I am concerned to learn that yet another bank, NatWest, is in trouble for failing to adequately monitor and therefore prevent money laundering. Pleading, it is reported, guilty to a criminal charge, it is obviously a fair cop. Bang to rights.


Other reports of fines levied on banks over recent years for failing to comply with the law in this area are well known. What, pray, is the Law Society/CQS advice in accepting these organisations as a client for residential transactions ?


One can simply imagine that if a firm of solicitors was up before the bench pleading guilty to such charge(s) and about to be fined several hundred million pounds, that firm would be off all lender panels (assuming it continues anyway) within five seconds. Of course NatWest will probably write any fine off against tax, issue platitudes and carry on. As ever, too big to fail, so they carry on and get away without any personal responsibility and no one goes to jail, as the lawyers would do for much lesser transgressions.


Via lender panel management ‘stakeholders’, combined with constant changes and updates to the UK finance lender instruction standards, lenders continue to spit out endless, ever higher requirements which solicitors have to meet (ones which lenders appear unable to fully match themselves). Is it not time for lenders to come off it?


They should stop hanging on to the coat tails of solicitors’ professional indemnity insurance cover without paying a proper fee (not passed on to customers, in my view) for legal services provided; agree not to object to contributory negligence when established when claiming breach of trust by solicitors (generally when the lending goes bad and they seek to blame the lawyers and recover the loan fully that way); have a standard singular set of mortgage instructions (including the UK finance instructions without individual amendments) across the whole, lending board; and generally engage with the legal profession in a more mature and sensible manner.


And possibly not commit criminal acts – too much to ask? It is not naive, either, to ask for this – where is the drive to make a conveyancing transaction easier? This is but one example of where it could be.


A wider question as ‘gatekeepers’ is: should the profession accept lender clients guilty of criminal convictions relating to money laundering when they are offering monies to their ‘customers’? Is this not a tainted client? Is the lender meeting an acceptable standard of behaviour/standing which does not present a risk to the law firm or the profession itself? Do I need to reassess such lenders as high risk, carry out enhanced due diligence and so on?


A levelling of the playing field north and south, west and east is well overdue. But then again, porcus volare.


Name and address withheld on request


City limits

The ‘push’ recommended by TheCityUK to make English law the ‘jurisdiction of choice’ (Gazette, 11 October) would no doubt be a nice little earner, particularly for large City firms. Unfortunately, the City of London now has an unenviable reputation – which it has worked assiduously to acquire – for facilitating tax evasion, money laundering, SLAPPS and libel tourism. If we want to extend the jurisdiction of English law the first thing we need to do is to clean up the somewhat tarnished reputation of the English legal services sector. To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, we should make it worth copying, rather than just telling everybody to copy it.


Peter Bolwell



Going with the flow


The article by Mark Alaszewski struck the right balance, so far as it went (Gazette, 27 September). However, it failed to mention employers’ responsibility to the remaining staff who are working in close proximity to the member who refuses to be vaccinated. Alaszewski does refer to ‘the greater use of workplace testing’. It seems to me that imposing an employment requirement of either being double-vaccinated or taking a (free) lateral flow test every day, before coming to work, may be an appropriate compromise.


Name and address withheld on request