Member Firm of the Month - Finers Stephens Innocent LLP
What are the main areas of law practised at this firm?
Property, Corporate, Commercial Dispute Resolution, Employment, IP/Media, Private Client, and Family.
When did the organisation start carrying out pro bono work?
Pro bono has always been part of the FSI ethos and traditionally, was undertaken in abundance. Many partners sit on the boards of foundations, charities and arts organisations. Pro bono work was undertaken by fee earners through their own contacts and individual causes.
In 2008 a group of associates established a structured, formalised pro bono programme. Following consultation meetings it was decided that pro bono advice would formally be provided to two organisations - Law Works, and the National Centre for Domestic Violence (“NCDV”).
How are staff encouraged to become involved in pro bono work?
The firm has a Pro Bono Committee to encourage and organise pro bono work throughout the firm. It is recognised throughout the firm that volunteers benefit from developing their legal knowledge and expertise and enhancing their client management and interpersonal skills. Involvement in pro bono work is monitored and counts towards the assessment and appraisal of an individual’s contribution to the Firm.
What type of pro bono work does the organisation carry out?
Organisations with whom ongoing pro bono relationships exist in addition to LawWorks include the National Centre for Domestic Violence, Own It, the Oxford Policy Institute, the Bianca Jagger Foundation, the Olympian Arts Trust, Quicksilver Children’s Theatre Company, Mary Ward Legal Society, the Royal Geographic Society, the Open Society Institution, the Contemporary Art Society, the New Berlioz Edition and NMC Recordings.
Please give details of a case that illustrates your organisation’s success with pro bono work?
A trainee, Hannah Gray, recently handled the following LawWorks case:
Mr C had taken out a credit card in 2001, a debt had accumulated and this was sold to a debt collection company. The company issued proceedings against Mr C and were pursuing him aggressively for the entire amount. He had been acting as a litigant in person and subsequently sought advice from LawWorks, as he wanted to resolve the matter by way of mediation.
Mr C was experiencing a very difficult time, both financially and physically, and the stress of litigation only added to his problems. I reviewed all the documents and discussed the matter in detail with him and prepared him for mediation. I prepared a position paper and an opening statement, and discussed these with the mediator during pre-mediation contact.
The mediation was carried out by telephone and lasted about four hours, and I negotiated a very favourable settlement. Mr C was delighted. He thanked me for my help and expressed his relief that the litigation had been settled.