Visa's Z2K Tribunals Project
In House Pro Bono Stories
We sat down with Paven Uppal, a trainee solicitor at Visa to talk about their work with the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) Tribunals Project.
Please tell us a little bit about a recent successful pro bono project.
Last year, Visa relaunched its participation in the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) Tribunals Project, which connects pro bono lawyers to low-income individuals in need of tribunal representation, who have been denied sickness or disability benefits.
A colleague and I took on the first case, to support a woman in her 40s who had numerous and extensive medical conditions and had been unsuccessful in the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appeals process many times. In her most recent award, our client had been given just the lowest rate of the daily living allowance and no mobility allowance, despite her medical conditions having a huge impact on her day-to-day life. We worked with her to create an open and trusting environment in which she was able to share details about her medical conditions and daily life, in order to draft detailed written submissions setting out a strong case for her appeal.
As a result of the written submissions and a successful tribunal, our client was awarded the highest rate for both daily living and mobility allowance, which was a huge result. This meant that she now receives support payments of £157 a week, compared to only receiving £62 a week before. We could also donate over £800 back to Z2K through Visa's internal charity donation platform, by converting the time we spent on this case into real cash donations.
How did you source this project? Did you partner with a law firm?
We were already aware of the Z2K Tribunals Project through work Visa had done in previous years. However, we partnered with one of our panel law firms, Morrison & Foerster (MoFo), on Visa's recent participation. MoFo has supported the Z2K Tribunals Project for many years, and had a huge bank of knowledge and resources that they shared with us as we took on our first few cases. MoFo provided training for members of the Visa Legal team who were interested in volunteering, and worked closely with us to support and guide us through the whole process.
Walk us though how you launch a project internally. How do you get from an idea to sourcing volunteers?
There are a few things to consider each time a new project idea is brought to our attention, for example, whether it would be beneficial to partner with one of our panel law firms, whether our legal teams have the relevant expertise to support, and whether we can leverage any kind of pro bono event or Visa event to boost participation.
For this project, we managed to leverage Visa's global pro bono week. The MoFo team joined us at our offices to give an introductory training session for anyone who was interested in volunteering. They brought the project to life by sharing their experiences on recent cases they had worked on. Participation in the training session was great and there was a lot of interest from colleagues who were legally qualified and those who weren't.
What made this particular project successful in your view?
Firstly, partnering with a panel law firm who were able to share their experiences, expertise and resources with us gave us a great foundation to take the project forward. Secondly, providing training helped us to ensure that volunteers felt empowered to support. Finally, working on real life cases with tangible results meant that volunteers were able to get to know their client and became invested in the process and overall result, making our work and support even more meaningful and rewarding.
How did you ensure volunteer engagement/senior stakeholder buy in?
Sharing real life stories of cases in the introductory comms and training session helped volunteers to build up a picture of how their support could have a huge positive impact on someone else's life. We also provided the opportunity to buddy up with another volunteer so that the work and time commitment seemed more feasible alongside day-to-day work. Stakeholder buy in was also relatively easy as the impact of the project was so clear. It also helped for senior stakeholders in our Paddington office that we were supporting members of our local community in Westminster.
What lessons did you learn from this project that you will apply to future projects?
It is important to have pro bono initiatives that are open to both lawyers and non-lawyers, and at all levels of experience or with different expertise. This project allowed volunteers to work with other colleagues who they may not have necessarily worked with before and by encouraging participation in groups of two or three, volunteers seemed more interested in getting involved.