Member Firm of the Month - Vodafone
Vodafone has worked with, and been a strong supporter of, LawWorks for a number of years.
What are the main areas of law practised at this firm?
As Vodafone continues to evolve, our commitment to innovation has never been greater. We are the world’s leading international mobile communications group by revenue, providing a wide range of communications services. With over 300 million customers in over 60 countries to cater for, our goal is to pioneer a world of total communications solutions, where fixed, mobile, voice and data will all become one. Vodafone’s legal function is a world class international law firm in its own right with approximately 350 lawyers in 22 countries supporting our business across a wide variety of legal areas, dealing with cutting edge legal and commercial issues. From our world headquarters in Newbury, we work on a wide range of legal matters, from multi-billion pound mergers and acquisitions to buying music and film rights, from launching new products and services to global sports sponsorship deals, as well as defending Vodafone against challenges by litigants and regulators around the world.
When did Vodafone start carrying out pro bono work?
Pro bono has always been central to the legal department’s ethos. We became formally involved in pro bono initiatives in 2004, when Vodafone became the first in-house legal team to join the LawWorks Community Groups Project.
How are staff encouraged to become involved in pro bono work?
While pro bono is not mandatory, it is a part of the very fabric of our organisation. The legal department has two pro bono coordinators who liaise with LawWorks to bring a diverse array of pro bono opportunities to our lawyers via monthly newsletters, the LawWorks for Community Groups Project and the online advice tool, amongst others. We maintain a pro bono precedent database, allowing lawyers to expand their skill set outside of their day job. Vodafone fosters a culture whereby our lawyers feel comfortable carrying out pro bono during working hours, including allowing lawyers to take up to three “volunteering days” to pursue pro bono or other social interest projects outside of the office. As part of our commitment to fostering pro bono both inside and outside of Vodafone, one of our legal directors volunteers her time as a LawWorks trustee.
What type of pro bono work does Vodafone carry out?
In recent years the legal department has developed a close link with LawWorks. Lawyers and company secretarial professionals in the department have provided advice and help on a wide range of projects for the LawWorks programme, including advice on registering as a charity, reviewing leases and contracts before they are entered into, copyright and trademark advice and assisting on dispute resolution. Vodafone is also a sponsoring member of LawWorks Choices, a new project for unemployed lawyers. In December 2006 the department won the Vodafone UK Foundation Community Award for Team Volunteering in recognition of its work for the LawWorks. Through the UK Vodafone Foundation we have been a major financial supporter of the LawWorks project. We are also in the process of setting up a link with one of our relationship law firms in order to provide our lawyers with pro bono initiatives that have a more international scope. On the social responsibility front, we are involved in charitable work and fund raising (including founding the Newbury Legal Walk), we run a volunteer reading buddies programme with a local primary school and host an annual “Green Day,” where our lawyers muck in on environmental projects in the local community.
Is there a recent case that illustrates Vodafgone’s success with pro bono work?
The LawWorks for Community Groups Project recently approached us about Human Rights TV, a not for profit organisation set up to act as an information resource for those suffering human rights abuse and as a support agency and distribution outlet for agencies and organisations working in the field of human rights, which needed advice in relation to copyright issues and a privacy statement for their website.
When asked for feedback the group said:
“LawWorks obtained the services of Neil Brown at Vodafone to look at our media law needs. Neil and his colleagues provided exactly the sort of advice and support you would expect from professionals of their standard. Whilst this pro bono support is most valuable to a small volunteer led operation like Human Rights TV that has no funding or budgets beyond meeting the most basic operational costs, it actually does not reveal the full benefit Neil provided to us.
When you have a small team of people working incredibly hard to try and provide what they believe to be a much needed service all support helps not just the operation but morale. In the relationship with Neil Brown we had not only a first rate legal support but an individual whose comments and enthusiasm for our project really gave us inspiration.
In addition, Neil exhibited a patience and understanding of the problems we have to face in dealing with simple administration issues that was and is deeply appreciated.
Neil and his team didn't just provide essential pro-bono advice but made us all feel the value of the work we do, something we can sometimes lose ourselves when so immersed in such a demanding project."