Pro bono work sends a message about law firms’ values and priorities, while providing highly skilled lawyers with an avenue to support the causes they care most about. For many law firms, pro bono work also provides an opportunity to engage with their community positively and support those in need.
How do you choose what kind of pro bono activities your firm takes on? And what are the positive knock-on effects for your team?
ALFRED IP, founding partner, Hugill & Ip: Generally speaking, we focus Hugill & Ip’s pro bono efforts on causes we feel passionate about — personally or as a ﬁrm. We team up with several NGOs on continuous support on legal matters related to our core practice areas: employment, discrimination, LGBTQ rights, corporate, probate and family, as well as rolling out speciﬁc initiatives which include fundraisers or spreading legal awareness in the community. Most recently we have joined hands with PathFinders to raise funds to beneﬁt the many unsupported children and their migrant mothers in Hong Kong.
We surely see many positive effects of our social responsibility commitment: from talent attraction and retention to the appreciation by many of our clients – both corporate businesses and individuals – who prefer to retain a law ﬁrm that is deeply involved within our community. It’s been inspiring how pro-bono work can be contagious, in fact through the most recent years we see increased participation of our staff at all levels, but also of many smaller businesses which start to understand the importance of giving back to society.
JAMES KWAN, partner and pro bono partner for APAC, Hogan Lovells: We are proud to be active pro bono participants, with a long tradition of supporting ground-breaking social developments with our legal expertise. In fact, we were one of the ﬁrst law ﬁrms to have a pro bono legal department.
Pro bono work is one of our strategic priorities — we not only build it into our training, but also our bonus policy. All of our employees are asked to contribute at least 25 hours annually to support their communities, leveraging their legal expertise. We see providing pro bono services as immensely beneﬁcial to our people. It enables them to have the opportunity to explore new areas and industries, as well as build experience in topics they may not have access to otherwise. Most importantly, it is an opportunity for them to put their expertise to use and ‘do good’ at the same time – a powerful motive as people want to work with purpose.
An example of a piece of work we are very proud of is a global case spanning ﬁve years, working in collaboration with our clients, Lotus Flower Charity, Global Survivors Fund and Redress where we supported victims from the Yazidi minority group who were seeking compensation for human rights crimes committed by a former Australian national ISIS ﬁghter in Iraq and Syria. In another case, our global teams across the U.S. Europe, and APAC worked to support major evacuation efforts for at-risk women from Afghanistan. The project illustrates our commitment to supporting women empowerment and justice in global crises. Lastly, we created HL BaSE, a mini-MBA style course for trainee and junior lawyers in which we develop their commercial skills to help drive social impact. Through HL BaSE, we provide pro bono support for social enterprises, create strong partner-ships, and at the same time build knowledge and insights through the creation of innovative solutions.
TERENCE WAH, partner, Dentons Rodyk: The pro bono initiatives that our ﬁrm decides to take on will have to meet the following values: (i) it should have a positive social objective such as furthering a particular public good, correcting a perceived injustice or otherwise addressing issues which are of broad community concern; and (ii) the intended beneﬁciary should be a person or class of persons who otherwise deserve public support such as the marginalised or disadvantaged.
The pro bono initiatives that the ﬁrm takes on give our lawyers a better appreciation of and integration with the community that they serve. The initiatives also provide our lawyers with the opportunity to work on cases involving diverse legal issues which then help further develop our lawyer’s legal skills.
To further our pro bono efforts, in 2022 our ﬁrm launched a philanthropy and non-proﬁt practice group to help clients — who themselves have a charitable objective — to achieve those objectives.
BILLY LAM, partner and co-chair of the Asia Pro Bono Committee, Mayer Brown
With a longstanding commitment to access to justice, pro bono is a strategic priority for Mayer Brown in Asia. We select pro bono initiatives based on what the community needs and what we can provide. Knowing when to say “no” is also key to ensuring we are utilising our strengths to beneﬁt the community and not do a disservice to them. While an NGO might come to us for pro bono assistance, we also look to see how we can provide holistic assistance in other forms such as through donations or volunteering. By listening to our NGO and community partners, we identify what legal assistance is needed and how we can support their initiatives.
Pro bono contribution is a rewarding experience for us. Knowing that we have made a difference brings immense joy and satisfaction. Our lawyers gain invaluable knowledge about the issues the community faces and the opportunity to further hone their legal skills. From junior lawyers looking to enhance their knowledge to senior lawyers who are looking to do more than just their day-to-day work, pro bono provides a win-win situation for everyone.
The article was originally published on Asian Legal Business