Matheson was delighted to last week host the launch by the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) of the inaugural Pro Bono Pledge Ireland Impact Report 2022. The report, which covers the first year of reporting for the Pro Bono Pledge Ireland, offers a unique insight into the variety of pro bono work undertaken by Irish volunteer lawyers across a number of very worthy initiatives.
The report provides a snapshot of the work being done by Irish volunteer lawyers to bridge the gap for those who cannot afford the legal services they require. It summarises the pro bono data reported by the Pledge signatories and highlights how Irish volunteer lawyers have collaborated with each other, and NGOs, in times of crises to provide legal assistance to those most in need at vulnerable times in their lives.
- 40% of law firms said that lawyers in their firm completed over 10 hours of pro bono work on average.
- A total of 37,109 hours of pro bono legal work was also reported by participating lawyers.
The report also includes case studies, highlighting the work done by the various law firms and individuals with the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC); the Irish Refugee Council and the Afghan community in Ireland; the Irish Red Cross; and with families of children with disabilities.
The report was launched during the fourth Pro Bono Week Ireland, an annual celebration that highlights and promotes pro bono culture as part of the EU-wide, European Pro Bono Week. Pro Bono Week celebrates the role played by volunteer lawyers in supporting civil society and human rights organisations and promoting access to justice for those in need.
Commenting on the report, Michael Jackson, Managing Partner, Matheson, said:
"Matheson is delighted to mark the launch of this inaugural report, which illustrates the collective dedication across the legal profession to provide free legal assistance to those who most require representation and advice in our community, and to the organisations that support them. At Matheson, we have seen a huge commitment from lawyers across the firm to help during times of crises, and our pro bono clients also benefit from the skills of our business services professionals (for example, from our digital services, finance, legal PA, marketing and human resources departments). We are committed to continuing to develop our pro bono commitment during 2023, and are encouraged by the number of enquiries we continue to receive from colleagues seeking to get involved. We continue to afford our pro bono practice the same priority as that of all of our specialist practice areas, and I would like to thank all of my colleagues for their efforts to date."
Niamh Counihan, Pro Bono Partner, Matheson, commented:
"Supporting access to justice through our pro bono legal work is a key pillar of our Impactful Business Porgramme and reflects our commitment as a firm to making a positive impact in the communities in which we live and work. As a founding signatory of Pro Bono Pledge Ireland, we are delighted to mark the launch of this report - the first of its kind in Ireland. This report quantifies and recognises the voluntary contribution members of the legal profession make in pledging their time and skills for the benefit of people who need them most and is a significant step in promoting a culture of volunteerism and corporate social responsibility across the legal profession. I am so grateful to all of my colleagues at Matheson for their continued dedication to our pro bono activities, as well as to those across the many other firms and organisations with whom we collaborate in working to deliver access to justice. I hope the impact of the pro bono work evidenced in this report is a motivation for many more volunteers to come forward and get involved.”
Eilis Barry, PILA, commented:
"Pro bono is a vital part of the access to justice landscape. This report illustrates the particular role, capacity, flexibility and potential of pro bono work to meet at least some of the otherwise unmet legal needs of people and groups experiencing poverty and disadvantage, whose needs will never be met by traditional lawyering but require tailored targeted supports."
First launched in 2020, Pro Bono Pledge Ireland was developed by an independent group of law firms, barristers, and in-house legal teams to affirm their commitment to delivering pro bono services in Ireland. Coordinated by PILA, the Pledge calls on signatories to aim for an aspirational target of 20 pro bono hours per lawyer per year, and provides a mechanism to benchmark progress through annual reporting of anonymous pro bono data. January 2022 marked the first year of reporting, with signatories to the Pro Bono Pledge required to submit data for their pro bono work in the period from January to September.