General counsel at major UK companies have signed a pledge to demonstrate their support for pro bono work – and committed to asking external law firms to disclose details of their own pro bono contributions.

Airtel Africa, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, GSK, ITV, London Stock Exchange, Ocado Group, Taylor Wimpey, The Goldman Sachs Group, United Utilities and Whitbread have signed the UK in-house pro bono pledge.

The pledge, created by the In House Pro Bono Group, National Pro Bono Centre and GC100, asks GCs and heads of legal to commit to encourage 25% of their UK-based lawyers to do pro bono work a year, rising to 35% the following year and 50% the year after that.

The pledge states: ‘We recognise the importance and value of legal pro bono work to individuals, employees, our company and most importantly, to wider society. It forms part of the contribution we make as an employer, demonstrating our commitment to be a responsible and caring contributor to society. Our legal team commits to the UK In House Pro Bono Pledge and will fulfil its key undertakings. We hugely look forward to using our skills to improve access to justice for all and to play our part in making a better world.’

As part of the pledge, legal teams commit to asking their external firms and chambers ‘to provide details of their pro bono activities and to be clear about their support for pro bono’.

The pledge does not specify how signatories should do this. The Gazette was told the National Pro Bono Centre, In House Pro Bono Group and GC100 will be working with signatories over the next year to provide examples of how this element of the pledge can be fulfilled.

The Legal Services Act places restrictions on the way in-house solicitors are permitted to undertake reserved activities.

The fourth element of the pledge asks the company’s designated ‘pro bono champion’ to outline how the pledge statement can apply within the company, particularly providing suggestions about how pro bono will be situated with the wider organisational CSR o ESG strategy.

The Gazette was told CSR funding can be released so that companies can, for instance, join LawWorks and use LawWorks’ insurance. Any legal pro bono work could also be counted within the company’s ESG tracking.


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