New Zealand Law Society - Wide range of projects for Kensington Swan pro bono team

Wide range of projects for Kensington Swan pro bono team

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From saving kiwi to boosting the arts, Kensington Swan’s pro bono team likes to dip its toes in a wide range of projects.

Each year the team provides assistance to the Kiwi Trust, which aims to preserve the national icon and help them to flourish, and the Lake Taupo Protection Trust.

It is also heavily involved in the Auckland Theatre Company and the Arts Foundation.

“If any of our staff have a particular community cause they would like to support then they put a ‘business case’ to the committee and we will assess it against our criteria in the programme, ie, if the cause fits within one of the five categories of community initiatives targeted by our programme and the support requested is something the firm is happy to engage in,” says David Ireland, a partner at Kensington Swan’s Wellington office and co-leader of the pro bono programme.

“Some of the projects we have been involved with are of national significance, such as the Kiwi Trust which is an initiative we have been involved with since even before we formalised our programme.

Auckland Theatre Company

“Another huge one we have been involved with is the Auckland Theatre Company, providing extensive legal work when they moved into new premises in Auckland.”

Lawyers arranged all the property contract work to ensure the establishment of the company’s new home at the ASB Waterfront Theatre in Wynyard Quarter could take place.

Mr Ireland says about 40 people might be involved in pro bono work during the course of a year, “about a third of our total legal staff”.

“In becoming admitted to the bar, we recognise we have been given a privileged status. With that privilege comes responsibility to use our skills, knowledge and resources to help those who would otherwise lack legal assistance. It gives us a sense of contribution and pride to assist others in need and support our community.”

On top of that staff get stuck into community work outside the programme itself, and they are encouraged to become members of school boards and other community organisations and initiatives.

It works both ways, with staff gaining from their involvement in the various projects.

“Staff can be involved in various projects and that allows us to be involved in areas that we would otherwise not have anything to do with,” says Fran Barber, a Wellington-based solicitor and member of the firm’s pro bono committee.

“There is a lot of good feeling from the staff, for example, we do work for Women’s Refuge – there are a number of people who are passionate about that cause and what we can do for them. And so they get a lot of personal satisfaction helping people who need it. It’s a way of combining an interest with work.

“And on the other hand, there are projects that create an opportunity to work in areas of the law on issues that would not normally come to the office, and it broadens staff’s knowledge and interests,” she says.

Environmental commitment

The firm lauds its commitment to “sound environmental practices”, and that extends to its own offices, through waste reduction and energy usage. Recycling, video-conferencing, duplex printing and energy efficient lighting are among some of the measures adopted as part of their environmental responsibility. The firm aims to have carbon neutral status.

Its signature contribution, however, says Mr Ireland, is the Auckland Theatre Company.

“Yes, it is largely Auckland but it’s the wider contribution to the arts that is our focus here, and something we have put large amounts of time and cash into supporting.”

The Michael Hill International Violin Competition is another arts project that gains the firm’s assistance.

They also support Kaibosh the Wellington food rescue charity. Summer interns do some hands-on volunteering which gives them some team-bonding skills.

The Kensington Swan pro bono programme also recognises partner and staff involvement in a category of community contribution they call ‘industry thought leadership’, capturing time spent working on boards across community organisations, charities, and industry support groups, sharing their knowledge and expertise.

Organisations that have benefitted from Kensington Swan’s resources under this heading include Workplace Savings New Zealand, the Wellington Standards Committee, the Financial Services Council, and, somewhat intriguingly, the Honorary Consul of Uruguay in Auckland.

The seven-team committee spans the Wellington and Auckland offices.

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