Think Globally, Act Locally

Recent workshops in Hong Kong and Milan reflect our commitment to promoting local pro bono opportunities around the world.

6 min read

The changing face of pro bono

TrustLaw, a global pro bono clearinghouse with which we work closely, publishes an annual index covering the practice of pro bono, with an eye to recent trends. The 2016 Index incorporates data from 64,500 lawyers in 75 countries. It points to significant levels of engagement among traditional pro bono stalwarts including the US, UK and Australia. In many countries, the practice of pro bono is considerably less common.

This is not, in itself, a bad thing. A variety of factors can lead pro bono work to be more prevalent in some jurisdictions than others. Limited awareness of pro bono as a duty for lawyers certainly plays a part, but it should also be said that pro bono work tends to be relied upon in countries that have insufficient legal aid systems. In these places, the need for pro bono legal representation for individuals of limited means—the traditional domain of pro bono practice—is more pronounced.

In recent years, however, pro bono has expanded beyond individual representation to include initiatives promoting good governance and the rule of law, and assisting NGOs and social enterprises. All jurisdictions, including those with strong legal aid arrangements, can benefit from increased pro bono in these areas. As a global Firm, we are committed to partnering with clearinghouses like TrustLaw to promote the practice of pro bono. 

Our commitment to developing local pro bono opportunities lies behind two workshops we co-hosted in June of 2017 with TrustLaw and PILnet—another global pro bono clearinghouse—as well as other partners. These workshops were held in Hong Kong and Milan, where, according to TrustLaw, lawyers averaged just 8.5 and nine hours of pro bono work last year. As a point of comparison, lawyers in the US averaged 72.9 hours; Australian lawyers averaged 40.8 hours.

Our Hong Kong office co-hosted a workshop with PILnet and Paul Hastings that focused on legal and governance issues faced by social enterprises in the region, and presented model articles of association for social enterprises. Our Milan office joined TrustLaw and Fondazione Lang Italia to host a workshop to help local NGOs better identify areas where firms like ours may be of assistance. At the Milan workshop, two additional firms—Hogan Lovells and local boutique firm Foglia Cisternino & Partners—also provided faculty.


In Hong Kong, a social enterprise workshop

The 2016 TrustLaw Index notes that lawyers based in Hong Kong "did less pro bono over the last year than in previous years, reporting an average of 8.5 hours per fee earner."

The Hong Kong social enterprise workshop, intended to promote pro bono opportunities broadly, was attended by more than 40 entrepreneurs and lawyers, and incorporated the rollout of model articles of association for social enterprises. The model articles were the culmination of a more than yearlong pro bono project that White & Case conducted in collaboration with WYNG, a foundation serving the Hong Kong community through information exchange platforms.

Singapore partner John Shum led our team, and was joined by Hong Kong associate Joan Tan—who also organized and presented at the workshop—as well as New York associates Cecile Yang, Gladys Ng, and Violet Jia. "At the outset," John says, "we worked with WYNG to compare social enterprise structures in different jurisdictions, with an eye to developing social enterprises in Hong Kong. As our relationship and work with the client developed, we realized that a set of model articles of association for a Hong Kong social enterprise company would be a natural next step."

"After developing the model articles, we continued to work with Ada Yip of WYNG, now in her capacity as founder and CEO of Urban Spring—a Hong Kong organization that aims to reduce single-use plastic waste," John says. "We took the model articles we had developed and applied them to Urban Spring."  The articles have been made publicly available and can be used by other social enterprises.

John says, "The seminar was an opportunity for us to publicize our work and to educate interested members of the legal profession and entrepreneurs on how to adopt the model articles. In addition, we collaborated with Paul Hastings to provide a comprehensive overview of legal issues facing social enterprises in Hong Kong."

Ada Yip of WYNG sees the model articles as an invaluable asset for social enterprises: "I truly believe this work we have done together will serve as a good resource for the social enterprise community," she says. "It has been a delightful experience working with White & Case."


At the Hong Kong workshop (L-R): White & Case partner John Shum and associate Joan Tan with Leontine Chuang of PILnet, Steve D. Winegar of Paul Hastings, and Ada Yip of WYNG.


In Milan, connecting firms and NGOs

According to the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, lawyers averaged just nine hours of pro bono work in Italy last year, with participation dropping "noticeably, from 21 percent reported in the 2015 Index to 16.9 percent." The Index nonetheless points to a range of initiatives that are "building a culture of pro bono" in Italy. The workshop we co-hosted recently in Milan was an effort to contribute to this shift.

The workshop was attended by more than 60 people with leadership positions in local and international NGOs. In addition to TrustLaw, it was co-hosted by Fondazione Lang Italia, which works with a range of organizations to address social needs in Italy. The workshop extended White & Case's longstanding partnership with TrustLaw, ThomsonReuters' legal clearinghouse. We have taken on more than 170 pro bono matters from TrustLaw since the creation of our Global Pro Bono Practice in 2010.

Lawyers from each of the three participating firms—White & Case, Hogan Lovells, and Foglia Cisternino & Partners—offered brief presentations on their pro bono work before participants split into breakout groups covering specific areas of law. White & Case associates Valerio Di Mascio and Fabrizia Faggiano led a session on corporate law, with associate Robert Becker contributing an overview of the Firm's pro bono practice. In parallel sessions, lawyers from Hogan Lovells presented on IP and labor, while lawyers from Foglia Cisternino & Partners spoke on Italian tax law.

Milan partner Ferigo Foscari said, "This workshop is part of our ongoing global commitment to developing pro bono across our offices. The event was a tremendous success and represents an important first step for our office in identifying new pro bono projects that can benefit the community in which our lawyers live and work.  We hope to have helped the participants in the workshop understand some important themes of corporate law that impact their organizations on a daily basis, and we look forward to exploring these themes further with some of the workshop's participants—many of whom are now in touch with us—as future pro bono clients of the Firm."

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