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Liberty Specialty Markets' Pro Bono Initiative with LawWorks

In House Pro Bono Stories

Emilie Bennet.jpg

 

 

We sat down with Emilie Bennetts, Employment Counsel at Liberty Specialty Markets to talk about their pro bono initiative with LawWorks.

 

Please tell us a little bit about your recent successful pro bono initiative.

The legal team at Liberty here in the UK decided last year that we wanted something we could get involved in together, consistent with our company values of making things better and putting people first. A colleague suggested LawWorks because he had worked with them at a previous organisation, so we approached them and we eventually became members in August 2023. We signed up for their Not-for-profit Programme, which is a brilliant service.

As an in house lawyer, you don't have the variety of external client work as you might in private practice, so the Programme is a good way to keep that variety up and use your skills to benefit charities that don’t have the funds to pay for legal advice.

 

I provided employment advice to a small charity which works with young people from local schools to maximise their potential and make applications to top universities, especially Oxbridge. There was data showing that applications to those universities from the area in which the charity operates were disproportionately low. A lot of is about confidence building and increasing knowledge of the opportunities available.

 

My other project was with Flora Cultura in Wales, which is a small gardening charity that uses gardening to improve the wellbeing of people with illnesses, disabilities and neurological conditions. I worked on updating their employment contracts to make sure they were fit for purpose, compliant and effective.

 

What I really enjoyed was that they are two such different organisations that I would never have come across without LawWorks.

Walk us though how you launched this initiative internally. How do you get from an idea to sourcing volunteers?

As a team we decided we wanted to do some pro bono work. Members of the team had worked in other places where that had been an option and we were keen for it to be a possibility. Liberty is very keen on volunteering generally and gives employees two days a year to devote to it. There is also an annual campaign where we're encouraged to get together and volunteer for community or charitable causes in teams, so this is an extension of that ethos.

 

The General Counsel was very supportive of the team getting involved and recognised that the team wanted to do it with any time we had available. The LawWorks membership fees are really reasonable too.

How did you cover this project from an insurance angle?

One of benefits of working with LawWorks is that they provide the indemnity insurance for the advice we give. We'll definitely carry on working with them as it’s a brilliant offering.

 

What made working with LawWorks so successful in your view?

We get weekly emails with a summary of new projects in it, which you can then put yourself forward for. The clients approach LawWorks and are put through a filtering service, so as lawyers, we receive a briefing sheet with the issues clearly laid out in it once we’ve been selected for a project.

 

They also have a great portal, through which you can search for projects in your area of interest, so I look for the employment ones and other members of the team who are commercial lawyers can look for those. It's easy to filter by topic and just pick things up when we have capacity. 

 

How did you ensure volunteer engagement/senior stakeholder buy in?

There was absolutely no pressure to sign up and about half of the team has expressed an interest so far. As more people work on opportunities and report back, I hope that will raise awareness and others may also become interested and get involved. We report back informally in team meetings or in our Teams group, rather than using a formal process. That’s working well so far.

 

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