In 2016 Arthur Cox won the Excellence in Marketplace award at the Chambers Ireland CSR Awards for its work with the Immigrant Council of Ireland. This relationship is part of the firm’s commitment to providing pro bono legal services which is one of the four main pillars of the firm’s CSR policy.
Pro bono work and the changing face of Ireland
Pro bono work is an opportunity for staff from the firm to exercise their professional services free of charge, or for a substantially reduced fee, to disadvantaged or marginalised people who cannot afford legal services. Arthur Cox has had a series of secondments at the Immigrant Council of Ireland since 2013 whereby trainees spend a number of months working at the Council. The results are of huge benefit to the many migrant families that access the Council’s legal services annually.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland was established by Sister Stanislaus Kenney in 2001 to develop innovative responses to Ireland’s changing society. Demand for the Council’s services has grown significantly since then, with more than 5,000 enquiries being dealt with each year.
Since 2013, eight members of staff from Arthur Cox have been seconded to the Council. Each secondee has worked exclusively for the law centre, at the Council’s offices for the duration of their 3-6 month individual placement. These Arthur Cox secondees were trainees and paralegals, selected for the placements based on their personal interest in human rights issues.
The Council selects strategic cases where it is hoped a long-term impact can be made, particularly in the areas of human trafficking, domestic violence and recognition of de facto couples. One of the more high profile campaigns that the Council has been involved in with the help of Arthur Cox secondees is the Turn off the Red Light campaign, working with the survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking to demand change in legislation.
As the Council has very limited resources, the decision by Arthur Cox to second members of staff on a pro bono basis has proved invaluable. But the benefits of this relationship are not just one sided. Time at the Council has exposed Arthur Cox staff to court experience and to human rights issues to which they would not usually be exposed as part of life in a commercial law firm.
Arthur Cox encourages and promotes the pro bono culture within the firm. The firm is delighted to be able to work with the Council to assist in changing Irish legislation on key human rights issues around immigration. Describing his time at the Council, Shane McCarthy, an Arthur Cox trainee on returning from his placement said: “Resources at the Council are limited so everyone there is very hands on, not just on day to day legal work, but also having input into areas like marketing and advertising campaigns for social change on issues like racism and prostitution.”
The firm’s commitment to its pro bono programme has mutual benefits for both staff and its partner organisations. Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, comments: “The Arthur Cox secondees have increased our capacity to represent clients and carry out advocacy and policy work on behalf of migrants and their families. This is of huge benefit to the many Irish and migrant families accessing our legal services annually.”
The Council has benefitted by the significant addition of 30-50% increase in staffing of the Council’s legal services as a result of this project. Arthur Cox plans to continue with the project for the foreseeable future as it believes that the relationship is of mutual benefit to both parties involved.