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HSBC's Pro Bono Programme

In House Pro Bono Stories


We sat down with Tessa Svennevik, Chair of the Global Legal Volunteering Committee at HSBC, and Jane Blackwood, Lead for Global Pro Bono Communications at HSBC, to learn about their pro bono programme.

Why does HSBC have a pro bono programme?

HSBC’s legal function recognises the value of its lawyers around the world contributing their skills to the community and building talent pipelines into the legal profession. It also values the skills that pro bono work builds in developing our people and internal culture.

We have lots of passionate legal volunteers, and some have roles in the local and global committees which support HSBC’s pro bono programme.

How do HSBC’s pro bono committees work?

HSBC has a local committee in each of its regions – Middle East, North Africa and Tukey, Asia Pacific, Latin America, North America, the UK and Europe. Each local committee is responsible for sourcing, doing due diligence and overseeing the implementation of an initiative, often in conjunction with a panel law firm. They all run independently and differently, but meet regularly.


Representatives from each of those local committees then join a quarterly global committee meeting, which oversees, shares learnings and drives consistency between regional approaches to pro bono work. 


The global committee is also a forum for local teams to shout about their achievements in this space. We work with our internal communications colleagues to cascade these good news stories to the legal function, which hopefully encourages participation and engagement from more lawyers!


How do the local committees source pro bono projects?

Historically, our panel firms came to us and asked us if we wanted to be involved. This still occurs, but over time our pro bono practice has evolved and lots of our people are involved in community initiatives which has changed the way we work. The lawyers in some of our jurisdictions provide pro bono legal advice directly to clients.


Tell us about some of the pro bono projects you’re working on

Globally, we perform pro bono work through a mix of project-based advisory work and volunteering at legal clinics.

Examples include advising asylum seekers in the US, providing advice about vulnerable people and financial services in Argentina, advising migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, advising at a domestic violence legal clinic in London, and advising on a project with the World Bank in the UK.


How could you make pro bono legal work more accessible and/or appealing to in-house lawyers generally?

This is a great question and something we’ve been grappling with recently! Even though HSBC has a well-established pro bono programme, we often see the same faces participating and we want to tap into a wider pool of resource. To find out what the barriers are, we need to ask – so we’re sending out a survey to our lawyers this month on that topic.


As a general thought, greater diversity in the subject matter of pro bono legal projects and clinics may increase involvement. Our in-house lawyers often consider themselves to be subject matter experts in discrete areas of banking and finance law.  Projects focusing on economic empowerment and social entrepreneurship can be a good fit. And, with environmental issues becoming of increasing relevance everywhere, including the community and the financial services industry, we hope to be able to contribute more pro bono legal advice in this space soon. 


Convenience can also be a factor, especially for the many in-house lawyers who have family commitments to work around. Flexible online opportunities can be appealing, as can those which are close to the office.


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