Last year, our pro bono committee launched a new strategy to encourage and capture the pro bono legal work taken on by our lawyers, focusing our efforts on specific projects where a significant difference can be made, while also allowing for discrete pieces of specialist advice. Enhancing our pro bono offering has allowed us to embed pro bono practice more deeply within our firm culture, provide valuable learning opportunities for our lawyers, including trainee solicitors and paralegals, and most importantly, giving those most in need of free legal services access to the justice they deserve.
Louise Taylor, chair of our pro bono committee, says: “Pro Bono Week provides an opportunity for us to showcase the range of pro bono work being taken on at Penningtons Manches Cooper, demonstrating how our core value of ‘we care’ runs through every area of the firm’s broad practice. We’re proud of the strides we’ve made in our approach to pro bono over the last year, as reflected by recent successes, but we also recognise we still have work to do – engaging more of our teams in pro bono and expanding our programme beyond the UK.”
The summary below outlines some of the pro bono projects our volunteers are currently working on, where positive outcomes are being achieved for our pro bono clients:
Our pro bono committee partnered with social justice organisation United Legal Access, so our lawyers can offer free legal assistance to people submitting claims to the UK government's Windrush Compensation Scheme. The scheme was launched in April 2018 to compensate members of the Windrush generation originally from Commonwealth countries for losses suffered from being denied UK documentation. This includes loss in relation to employment, housing, and education, as well as general living costs and life events. United Legal Access aims to break down barriers between the public and the law, connecting those with potential claims to lawyers offering free advice on the application process and any offers received.
Our lawyers are now volunteering on several active cases, gathering evidence to maximise claimants’ chances of receiving adequate compensation. Louise Taylor, with immigration associate Jen Parker, has been working on one progressing case for a pro bono client facing financial hardship as a result of not being able to prove her status: “Our client explained that her rent arrears had increased due to losing her job as she could not prove her status in the UK, and she had been subjected to repeated possession proceedings. This was a real source of stress to her and her family as a hearing was taking place soon. We negotiated with the landlord to agree an adjournment for six months and then wrote to the court to confirm this. We were delighted to achieve a positive outcome and hope the rest of her claim proceeds with further success."
Lawyers in our sports sector team have been supporting Sport Resolutions’ pro bono legal advice and representation service to assist athletes with limited financial means who are involved in proceedings. Sport Resolutions is an independent, not-for-profit dispute resolution service for UK and international legal issues and disputes in sport. It aims to provide a quicker and cost-effective alternative to internal appeals processes and court-based litigation, appreciating the importance of time and reputation for athletes’ careers.
Through the Sport Resolutions service, associate Thomas Cleeve has achieved a successful outcome for one athlete and coach who was suspended following an incident that occurred. Thomas drafted submissions, which highlighted safeguarding issues and a breach of process. The submissions were successful and resulted in proceedings being withdrawn and the pro bono client returning to their career.
The Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) law clinic offers pro bono advice on family, personal injury, employment and immigration matters to people in the Cambridge area, and across the UK through a remote service. Lawyers in our Cambridge-based teams have been volunteering with the ARU law clinic to provide free legal advice to individuals facing issues around employment and immigration.
Employment managing associate Sophie Whitbread, reflects on her experience volunteering for the clinic and recounts a success story: “I have found it eye-opening as it’s highlighted worrying injustices and inequalities suffered by many employees. It has been extremely rewarding to use my legal knowledge and skills to empower people to take action to address such issues. A recent highlight was advising a pro bono client with a potential disability discrimination claim against their employer, having just been dismissed. In a thirty-minute clinic slot, I advised on the merits of her claim and possible next steps, including raising an appeal. This gave her the reassurance needed to take further paid legal advice and we negotiated a settlement that resulted in a generous pay-out including all legal fees covered by her former employer. Without receiving the initial free advice, she would not have had the courage to pursue the justice she deserved.”
Employment senior associate Victoria Spires took on a discrete piece of work for a unique pre-school surrounded by nature, offering a rich outdoor learning environment through outdoors activities so children develop their innate abilities in assessing risks, and undertake manageable challenges. This is an example of how pro bono can benefit deserving organisations, as well as individuals, particularly within the education and charity sectors where budgets are particularly tight and funds for unanticipated costs, like paying for expert legal advice, aren’t easily made available.
The pre-school manager kindly shared this positive feedback with Victoria, highlighting the immediate impact pro bono advice can have: “I was apprehensive about this whole subject area and concerned that I did not understand the full situation and perhaps would be overwhelmed with it. The way you explained everything so clearly was a huge encouragement and I cannot thank you enough for the time that you dedicated to putting the information together and explaining it to me.”