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Global links aid firm’s local work

03 November 2017 - By Craig Stephen

Law giant DLA Piper has connections in most parts of the globe, which is extremely handy when it comes to arranging pro bono projects in New Zealand.

The firm describes itself as “one of the largest providers in the world” of pro bono services, with 270,000 hours donated during 2016.

Adam Holloway

Adam Holloway, who is a partner in the Wellington office and the supervisor of the branch’s pro bono work, says one of the advantages of being part of a global company is that there are employees in other countries whose job is purely to arrange and coordinate pro bono work.

This external work will have been vetted and approved before it comes into Mr Holloway’s office.

Among these is a major project, in partnership with UNICEF, in support of justice for vulnerable children around the world, particularly Bangladesh.

Mr Holloway says the Wellington office alone provided 1,233 pro bono hours for the year to June 2017, with each lawyer carrying out an average of 30 hours a year.

“We have adopted a policy globally that we would like all of our lawyers to do 35 hours each annually of pro bono work. We encourage our lawyers to grasp the opportunities available to them. Pro bono is an important part of the profession of law, and it’s important to the firm and great for the staff.

“In New Zealand we are coming a bit under the target, at 30 hours each, but it is tracking in the right direction,” he says.

Mr Holloway says there are various pro bono opportunities available; some present themselves easily but some need to be sought out.

“It can sometimes feel like feast or famine, and sometimes we need to hunt out opportunities because the spread of pro bono work that we have available doesn’t touch all of the right teams evenly. There can sometimes be a weighting towards a particular team that has more pro bono work than it could possibly do, but other teams might not necessarily have the right skills to assist with that work.

“Broadly speaking we have themes we want to focus on. We say ‘is this pro bono, do we have the right skills, and do we have the right capacity’; for example, is someone available right now. What’s important is that we are able to resource it with the same amount of commitment that we would with someone who’s paying a bill at the end of the month. We don’t want to say yes to things and not have the right skills or the right people available on the ground. Sometimes we turn things down because we can’t do it at the time, and sometimes we turn projects down because it’s all going to the same team.”

DLA Piper’s commercial team works closely with the Fred Hollows Foundation, which helps improves sight to people in the developing world. Its property team has carried out conveyancing work for homes provider Habitat for Humanity and the litigation team is currently working on family reunification work for the Refugee Immigration Legal Advice Service (RILAS).

“The most valuable work is where our staff have the opportunity to see the good that they are contributing to. That can be very productive, for example, Habitat for Humanity where we’ve been able to go, at the end of the project, and be part of the celebrations when a family walks into their new home,” says Mr Holloway.

“The Wellington office is getting a similar buzz out of the family reunification work, because they’re working with people to reunite with their family members from their original country.”

DLA Piper’s pro bono clients in New Zealand include the Starship Foundation, CanTeen, Auckland City Mission, Community Law centres, and the Gynaecological Cancer Foundation.

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Last updated on the 3rd November 2017