Clearinghouses support global growth of pro bono

16 November 2011, Berlin: Advocates for International Development (A4ID) and PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law (PILnet) today released their joint publication, ‘Pro Bono Clearinghouse Manual: Resources for developing pro bono legal services.’

Launched at the 2011 European Pro Bono Forum, the publication provides practical guidance to local and regional law societies and organisations to set up pro bono clearinghouses in their own countries.

Globally there are 4 billion people who live in regions ungoverned by the rule of law according to the United Nations. But despite a high level of demand for free legal support, the report’s authors noted that there are pro bono clearinghouses in only 17 mainly developed countries. This is limiting the ability of the poorest and most vulnerable communities from accessing their rights and demanding justice.

Between them, A4ID and PILnet have more than fifteen years of experience supporting access to free legal support through pro bono. This new publication draws on what the two organisations have learnt and responds to the need for a larger global network of clearinghouses by encouraging more programmes to be set up across Europe as well as Africa, Asia and South America.

The Manual outlines the procedure for setting up and running a clearinghouse, advises on communication with clients and law firms, and gives guidance on ensuring financial sustainability.

Chief Executive of A4ID Yasmin Batliwala said, “Despite a growth in pro bono over the last few years the number of pro bono clearinghouses remains woefully small. And yet clearinghouses, like A4ID and PILnet, are crucial in effectively linking legal needs with legal skills, ensuring quality of services and encouraging more firms to undertake pro bono work.”

“A4ID and PILnet are both global organisations with global networks of lawyers, charities and individuals that support our work. We know that building a wider, stronger network of clearinghouses around the world will not only increase access to free legal support in areas where there is none but will encourage the sharing of best practice and knowledge. Our hope is that the new Pro Bono Manual will help spread the culture of pro bono to every corner of the world.”

Edwin Rekosh, Executive DirectorA director is responsible for the day-to-day management of a company. Directors are also primarily responsible for the company’s business plan. of PILnet, said, “NGOs often need legal support but it’s very hard for them to find that help on their own. Pro Bono clearinghouses represent a great way to match up charities in need with lawyers who want to help. Working together, NGOs and pro bono lawyers can strengthen human rights, give voice to marginalized communities, and help extend the rule of law.

"It’s our expectation that the Pro Bono Manual will help expand the number of new pro bono clearinghouses by sharing the knowledge and experience of established organizations. This is one movement that cannot spread too quickly, particularly in these straightened economic times.”

A4ID was established after the Asian Tsunami in response to the desire of City lawyers in London to use their skills towards supporting the world’s poorest people. The charity operates an innovative pro bono broker service that connects 34,000 lawyers from leadings firms around the world, with organisations working towards the eradication of poverty to provide them with free legal support.

To date the organisation has assisted more than 350 non-governmental organisations, social enterprises, community-based organisations and developing country governments.

PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law envisions a world where rule of law delivers justice and protects human rights. An international NGO devoted to building a global network to activate, empower, and connect those who use legal tools in the public interest, PILnet, in collaboration with partners around the globe, inspires lawyers to serve the public interest, strengthens the ability of civil society to help shape law and policy, and makes formal systems of justice more accessible.

To download a copy of the manual please click here.

For further information please contact Helen Mould on 0044 (0)203 116 2799 or Helen.mould@a4id.org