About the charity
Belle Isle Elderly Winter Aid (“Belle Isle”) provides a range of services to assist older people to live independently for as long as possible. Operating in an area of Leeds where many elderly residents are on very low incomes and experience loneliness, its support includes helping with cleaning, shopping and arranging activities, such as a weekly lunch club.
Belle Isle was having problems with its photocopier provider. For example, it began noticing that the company was adding extra charges to its invoices, none of which had been agreed. When these were disputed, the company demanded immediate payment of the charges unless Belle Isle immediately signed up to a new and potentially more expensive three year contract.
Belle Isle felt that it was being charged unfairly and being unduly pressured into signing a new contract. It wanted to seek advice from a solicitor about the best way forward but could not afford “a huge” bill. It commented, “we felt that we were stuck between a rock and a hard place”.
Belle Isle contacted LawWorks and submitted an application to the Not-For-Profits Programme for pro bono legal assistance. LawWorks worked with Belle Isle to assess its eligibility and prepare a brief for potential volunteers.
Emily Kozien-Colyer from the law firm Goodman Derrick LLP took up the pro bono opportunity because she was well aware of how expensive legal advice could be and considered it to be part of her duty as a solicitor to help those who could not afford to pay whenever she could.
Emily took the time to look through all of the relevant documents and invoices. She discovered that the money owed to the company was significantly less than it was claiming and drafted a letter to the company, addressing each of the invoices and the incorrect charges. This helped Belle Isle to negotiate a fair settlement and a new contract, this time on much more favourable terms.
Belle Isle said that Emily was “excellent” and that “nothing was too much trouble for her”.
Belle Isle particularly appreciated the way Emily “jargon-busted the contract” and pointed out the company’s mistakes. This enabled it to negotiate a better deal and thereby reduce the running costs of the organisation going forward: “Everything’s a bit easier now”.
Emily felt that Belle Isle now had a clearer agreement with the company and that her involvement had enabled the parties to resolve the dispute fairly, meaning everyone was better off. She described the experience as “uplifting” and commented, “it’s empowering, for us as well as them…it’s nice to know that I can make such a tangible difference”.
Belle Isle found the whole process “simple from start to finish” and said the service was “absolutely excellent”. It would recommend LawWorks to any organisation finding itself in a dilemma.
Emily said she would definitely take on another pro bono case. She noted, “it takes up such a small percentage of your day to have one or two ongoing pro bono matters and yet it can make such a difference to others”.