Lawyers around the country are celebrating the voluntary work done for Pro Bono Week. With the current challenges and uncertainty we face, pro bono provides access to justice for individuals who truly need it. Here are some memorable stories and individuals that make pro bono week worth celebrating.
In 2015 Shireen Irani, the founder of non-profit online network iProbono, spoke at an event and recalled the case of Amal. Amal was attacked and raped by her neighbour in India at only 3 years old leaving her with injuries requiring at least three reconstructive surgeries. The case was awfully managed in the Indian justice system and the court ‘taunted and mocked’ her throughout the hearing.
Later on that year, pro bono lawyers jumped in to help after Amal’s mother appealed. When the case was on appeal, the high court reversed the trial court’s decision. This story is a fantastic example of what good lawyers can do for a great cause.
Bar Pro Bono Awards have highlighted key individuals who left a memorable mark on the world through their voluntary work. Zimran Samuel has been praised for his efforts working over 2 months on a wholly pro bono basis for victims. “He took on as many cases as possible where there was evidence of domestic abuse. Resulting from lockdown for clients who could not afford to pay or get legal aid.
Zimran connected with local charities in Brighton but was also able to take on cases from across England and Wales thanks to remote working.” Zimran’s work had a huge impact on everyone, and even inspired young lawyers to start their own work. To help with this, recently he’s been completing webinars, training workshops as well as trying to change the regulations and the way domestic violence cases are dealt with.
Jelia Sane was nominated in 2019 for her work in international refugee human rights and humanitarian law in countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. They said “Jelia worked pro bono to secure the family reunification of three young siblings living alone in Syria, after their parents were kidnapped and detained by the Islamic State group, and whose application for entry clearance to the UK to be reunited with their grandmother had been denied.
She also delivered a week-long training in Abuja to lawyers from the Nigerian Bar Association on securing access to justice. And reparations before regional and international human rights monitoring bodies for victims of internal displacement as a result of the armed conflict between the state security forces and Boko Haram. The training was the first of its kind in Nigeria. Bringing together over 50 lawyers from one of the regions most affected by the conflict and internal displacement.”
Jennifer Robinson was also nominated in The Bar Pro Bono Awards for her ‘extraordinary commitment to international pro bono human rights work’. Jennifer has helped many individuals across seas, internationally and goes far beyond this blog. “She’s was one of only two international lawyers trusted by the UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to give specialist pro bono legal advice in relation to the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul.” She has helped a man who was wrongly imprisoned in Egypt return to his home in Australia, acted pro bono for Vanuatu in a case at the International Court of Justice and has taken on urgent cases in relation to the protests in Indonesia.
Pro Bono case studies
Pro Bono truly does change and help lives. Stories from Advocate, a charity that supports pro bono, are genuine examples of this. Here is Sue’s case “While waiting for her divorce to proceed, Sue’s estranged husband forged her signature. And took out loans and a mortgage totalling over £7.5 million. Transferring the money beyond her reach, Sue was thrown into crisis. Suffering overwhelming debt and homelessness when her property was repossessed. Her husband then tried to delay their divorce proceedings with multiple civil actions designed to break her. With no options or money, Sue and her children had to leave their home. Then move in with her brother and turned to Advocate for help.
A team of volunteer barristers helped Sue to fight her husband’s intimidatory civil actions, resisting his attempts at delay and forcing him to disclose evidence. This resulted in him withdrawing his claims, leaving her free to pursue her divorce separately”
Tanvir’s story is another example, from Advocate, of heart-warming pro bono work. Tanvir is disabled and suffers with his mental health resulting him in taking a large number of sick days. Due to this, his employer relocated him for a trial period on medical grounds to a different department. This affected Tanvir’s anxiety and knocked his confidence. Resulting in him relying a lot on his co-workers, who complained he was a nuisance. This resulted in dismissal for lacking capability.
“Tanvir sued his employer for unfair dismissal on the basis that his difficulties arose from his disability. There had been no effort by his employer to address the problem. Tanvir’s case was listed for an eight day hearing. But his disability meant that he had very little chance of being able to represent himself effectively without help from a barrister.” Thankfully Advocate’s free legal assistance service was able to give him advice and help. Resulting in a £15,000 agreement, putting an end to more than a week in front of an employment tribunal.