Not-For-Profits Programme case study: British Acoustic Neuroma Association

About the charity

British Acoustic Neuroma Association (“BANA”) is a small national charity that supports people affected by acoustic neuromas.

Acoustic neuromas are rare benign brain tumours that can affect balance, hearing and facial function. In many patients symptoms can be deceptively mild at first and because they are often associated with other conditions, acoustic neuromas can initially go undiagnosed. 

As the condition is quite rare and many people have not heard of it, patients can often feel isolated when initially diagnosed.  BANA has a number of support mechanisms in place to help. It has a staffed office for immediate support and signposting, it publishes and distributes a magazine quarterly, hosts online forums, operates local area support, and has a network of members willing to speak with others to share experiences. BANA also works to raise awareness about the condition and the difficulties of the prevalent symptoms, in particular among frontline medical professionals to increase the potential for earlier diagnosis. 

Advice needed

Like many applicants to the Not-For-Profits Programme, BANA approached LawWorks for assistance as it did not have sufficient funds allocated to pay for legal advice.  BANA was set up in 1992 and was entirely managed by volunteers until fairly recently. It had been finding it difficult to fundraise, particularly because the condition is not widely known about and it also found that the pool of funds available to it were limited. 

BANA requested legal advice about whether it had acted in accordance with its constitution when dealing with proxy voting.  At its AGM, a member alleged that the process previously followed was not in line with BANA’s constitution and therefore a vote in favour of a particularly crucial proposal about changing the structure of the organisation may have been invalid.

BANA applied to LawWorks seeking advice on whether it had followed the correct voting process and what the best steps forward were.

Help provided  

LawWorks received BANA’s application online and worked with BANA to assess its eligibility for the project and gather relevant information and documents so that it could provide a clear brief to potential volunteers. 

Warren Stapley, from the LawWorks member firm Kirkland & Ellis International LLP (“Kirkland & Ellis”), volunteered to advise BANA.  He chose to help because the charity’s work was particularly close to his heart for personal reasons and he also wanted to work on new matters different from his day to day work.

Warren and his partner supervisor at Kirkland & Ellis arranged a conference call early on with BANA to gather details about all aspects of the case and to determine the best course of action. They then looked over all of the information and advised BANA accordingly.

Warren also assisted BANA in drafting an update for BANA’s members’ magazine outlining the position on the vote.

Warren took immense satisfaction in the knowledge that he could make a difference to BANA’s underrepresented cause: “I believe my contribution is both valuable and valued, and there is a mutual respect that makes my work for BANA all the more satisfying”. 

“Warren has been the most amazing support. He has listened and more importantly really heard our issue, taking on board historical events and assessing the situation as a whole. His approach has been the most sincere and philanthropic than any other solicitor we have had dealings with.” (BANA)

 

Impact

Warren believes that the advice has helped to reassure BANA’s dedicated management team that they are ‘doing the right thing’.  BANA echoes this and said that it is “very easy to question yourself when you are put under pressure, but having someone with legal knowledge to guide us through was hugely reassuring.”

As a result of the legal support, BANA has been able to progress its plans to change its structure and hopes to complete this very soon.  BANA said that the advice they received “helped to potentially save the organisation”.

If BANA had not received assistance through LawWorks it could have incurred significant legal costs countering the accusation, or had to reconvene its members to re-take the vote in order to proceed with the vital resolution. Either option would have forced BANA to use money allocated to charitable funds, thereby reducing the service it could offer to beneficiaries.

Warren commented “I believe that the work being done behind the scenes for and on behalf of BANA will hold both the charity itself (and more importantly, its members and their families) in good stead for a bright future”.

 

About LawWorks

BANA commented, “service is always excellent.  It is relatively simple to apply”. 

BANA has since tried to “spread the word about LawWorks to other charities”.

Warren said “I would encourage LawWorks to keep up the good work in connecting worthy causes with those professionals who wish to assist on a pro bono basis”.

Warren would recommend taking on pro bono matters to other lawyers: “it provides exposure to an underutilised skill-set…in terms of being able to progress and grow as a legal professional, these ‘soft’ skills are – or at least, become – of critical importance to developing your offering as a whole.”