Winner: Field Fisher Waterhouse
Finalists 2011: Clifford Chance, Eversheds, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Linklaters, Pinsent Masons, Reed Smith
The judging panel was hugely impressed with an initiative by Field Fisher Waterhouse to establish a website that links organisations across the globe seeking pro bono legal advice with lawyers willing to give it.
Like many of the best corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, the idea to launch iProbono bubbled up from the firm’s grassroots.
Solicitor Shireen Irani originally came up with the idea when she was a student and raised it with Field Fisher’s CSR team when she joined as a trainee.
Field Fisher was impressed with the idea because it played to the firm’s strengths in the field of technology. Irani was given time to research the project and when the firm decided to go ahead with it they seconded her to it on a full-time basis. Since the launch of the website, more than 1,000 individuals and 120 charities have signed up. So far, 140 projects seeking legal advice have been matched with lawyers willing to provide it.
One such arrangement has seen a group representing refugees from the Chagos Islands, who were deported in the 1960s by the UK Government, receive help taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
In another case, Zimbabwean Betty Makoni, the award-winning founder of Girl Child Network Worldwide, received help from an associate at a leading UK private client firm defending herself against an online smear campaign.
Earlier this year iProbono was asked to join the Attorney General’s international pro bono committee and in August it hosted a roundtable debate in India on the fostering of a pro bono culture with 12 leading local firms.
This article is taken from Legal Week.