Pro bono advice: the unsung heroes

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Each November, the legal profession rightly celebrates its contribution to society with Pro Bono Week. Here we explore the incredible positive impact of free expertise on the social sector.

At Impetus-PEF, pro bono expertise is one pillar of our unique three-part package of support, complementing funding and strategic direction. While the money is always welcome, the impact of blue chip expertise must not be underestimated. Currently, more than 400 individuals and 60 companies offer pro bono advice both to Impetus-PEF and the organisations in our portfolio for high level projects including data diagnostics, business plans, strategic reviews, financial systems, management structure, legal advice or one off marketing campaigns.

In 2013 alone, these amazing supporters donated 8,300 hours of their time and delivered 200 projects worth over £2.8m. Quite simply, they provide world class consultancy services that a charity could never afford. And that definitely doesn’t go unnoticed. As Matt Stevenson-Dodd, CEO of Street League, said: “The funding is brilliant but the real beauty of Impetus-PEF is in the pro bono support and the investment director. What you get is access to really high-quality pro bono advice that you just could never get as a charity on your own.”

As one of Impetus-PEF’s first legal partners, Kirkland & Ellis (K&E) have been providing pro bono assistance since 2007. In that time, they have donated over £670,000 to Impetus-PEF and around 55 K&E staff have worked on approximately 40 charity projects, contributed to social investment programmes and served as committee members.

Kirkland & Ellis have undertaken a wide range of pro bono projects with Impetus-PEF, including contract reviews, legal restructures, corporate partnership reviews and due diligence. In 2011 Kirkland & Ellis led on the pro bono design of the three-year social impact bond, commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and backed by Big Society Capital, which enabled portfolio charity ThinkForward to expand into ten schools in Shoreditch in east London. Last year alone, Kirkland & Ellis contributed 422 pro bono hours to Impetus-PEF and its portfolio charities.

It’s the dramatic pro bono cases that make the headlines but, behind the scenes, day in, day out, K&E lawyers are quietly giving their time and expertise for transactional projects such as these,” says Impetus-PEF Pro bono manager Gemma Bruton. “The value of this work cannot be underestimated as it enables charities to dramatically improve the way they work and the services they offer. We are immensely grateful for their contribution.” 

This matches their wider commitment, completing 113,000 pro bono hours globally in 2013 and seeing it win Law360 pro bono firm of the year in 2013 and 2014. Harkiran Hothi, a partner who coordinates pro bono work for Kirkland’s London office added: “At Kirkland & Ellis, pro bono isn’t just a professional priority — it’s a passion. We are particularly delighted that our relationship with Impetus-PEF enables us to support projects that help so many disadvantaged young people, many of whom are on the doorstep of our London office.” 

This year, Christopher Field and James Brenton of K&E were nominated for Impetus-PEF’s Pro Bono project of the year award. In 2013, the pair donated over 67 hours to deliver a project for IntoUniversity.

Part of Impetus-PEF’s portfolio since 2007, IntoUniversity provides local learning centres for young people from disadvantaged homes to go to after school to receive academic support from trained tutors in a calm and inspiring environment. Its innovative programme supports young people to attain either a university place or another chosen aspiration.

Christopher and James took on a vital piece of work to draw up IntoUniversity’s legal agreements for its partnerships with universities, specifically tailored to the charity’s particular needs and objectives. Christopher and James did a superb job in clarifying the risks the charity could be exposed to and addressed these by drawing up an extremely comprehensive template that could be used to start future negotiations with universities.

Their technical knowledge and experience was invaluable and, in true Kirkland & Ellis style, Christopher and James went above and beyond the initial brief by also supporting IntoUniversity with particularly complicated and detailed negotiations with university partners. Their generous sharing of their expertise has not only been a valuable gift to the charity, saving them considerable expense, but the agreements themselves will continue to strengthen the charity’s expansion programme.

Rachel Carr, CEO of IntoUniversity sums it up: “Christopher and James provided us with brilliant guidance in a technical area where our knowledge and experience was naturally lacking. They were very easy to work with and quickly understood what we were seeking to achieve – in fact, they couldn’t have been more helpful and supportive. We particularly appreciated the face-to-face time that Christopher and James gave to our Director of Development and the very quick turnaround of work which enabled us to progress quickly. The work will serve the charity extremely well for years to come.”

James explains why working on the project was so fulfilling: “Working with IntoUniversity has been a great experience. In particular, it has been inspiring to work with a pro bono client so experienced in their sector and so confident in their objectives. This meant that Chris and I were really in the best position to provide help and guidance.”

If you would like to volunteer your day job skills with us, please register your interest.

Impetus − The Private Equity Foundation
About The Author
Kelly Matthews is Interim Head of PR at Impetus-PEF.

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