Goldman Sachs' Connect Legal Advice Clinic
In House Pro Bono Stories
We sat down with Sobs Vakilian, Executive Director and Counsel at Goldman Sachs, to learn their Connect legal advice clinic.
Please tell us a little bit about a recent successful pro bono project
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading charity for homeless young people (aged 16-25). Each year, Centrepoint helps more than 16,000 homeless and vulnerably-housed young people by providing a chance to stay at a Centrepoint residence while building foundations and preparing for a future where they can realise their own potential. We have been involved with Centrepoint since 2016, most notably running the ‘Connect’ virtual legal advice clinic with Herbert Smith Freehills and supporting them in ad hoc other activities and projects.
The ‘Connect’ clinics involve a lawyer from GS and HSF partnering in providing legal advice to Centrepoint users on a range of issues. This typically takes the form of an initial Zoom meeting with the Centrepoint user and follows with a one-off note of advice. Interacting directly with the end user of the advice on a real-life scenario enables those who participate in the clinic to see exactly how their advice will be used. Centrepoint keeps track of the end results on the clinic users’ experiences, so we can then call out particularly successful results to those involved and senior stakeholders.
Walk us though how you launch a project internally. How do you get from an idea to sourcing volunteers?
It can be quite varied. Typically, though, the idea is sourced by us pro-actively reaching out to a partner organisation or law firm or vice versa. We then require a mandatory form to be completed with a proposal for the project, which requires high level details such, how many volunteers are needed, the timeline for volunteering, details about insurance etc. This is shared with the Pro Bono Committee and relevant senior stakeholders within Legal and if approved it will be publicised in the weekly legal division meeting and through the relevant channels of the other divisions which are targeted for volunteers and followed up with an email asking volunteers to subscribe.
How did you cover this project from an insurance angle?
When we initially partnered with Centrepoint, we did not have our own in-house pro bono insurance, but ensured that each GS volunteer was paired with a lawyer from HSF, who was insured under HSF’s policy. More recently we have our own pro bono insurance as well, but continue to have each GS lawyer paired with an HSF lawyer for support and to share the workload.
What made this particular project successful in your view?
The fact that you are dealing with a client directly leads to a better level of enthusiasm and engagement because you can see the impact of your advice.
How did you ensure volunteer engagement?
We periodically refresh calls for new volunteers when there is volunteer attrition and recently have had particular success in attracting volunteers by targeting new hires at GS.
What lessons did you learn from this project which you will apply to future projects?
HSF runs analysis of the sessions with the young people – what advice we've given, the end result, the rate of attendance, etc and these stats really help to plan for the future. If you can produce such data, it helps the project run more smoothly and be more effective.