In 2022, our global offices contributed substantially to pro bono work in a variety of impactful ways.
Our London office contributed 11,200 pro bono hours to assist over 100 individuals under the firm’s access to justice projects, which focus on serving people with disabilities, asylum seekers and refugees, women, and children. We continued to support the most vulnerable in society by helping mothers in prison to see their children and by representing individuals in appeals to obtain disability benefits. Through our charities and nonprofits program, we provided over 70 organizations with free legal advice and support, enabling them to focus on their important work of delivering essential public services to those in need. We also launched an innovative new project to provide legal advice to startups and entrepreneurs in the emerging digital health and femtech sectors.
Our Brussels, Geneva, and Munich offices contributed more than 2,000 hours to pro bono work and continued to make important strides on behalf of clients who we represent through the firm’s Emerging Enterprises Program and Trade for Development Initiative.
Our Asia Pacific offices contributed 970 pro bono hours in 2022, and continue to seek new opportunities to provide pro bono support to our communities.
The London office established a pilot “legal accelerator” pro bono scheme in order to broaden access to high-quality legal services for eligible startup organizations. To be eligible, enterprises must promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals; have a social, environmental, humanitarian, cultural, healthcare or community focus; and be a startup company which is yet to attract significant external capital.
Under this project, a Sidley team advised R8ER Ltd, a pre-seed stage investment evaluation platform focused on startup digital health, medtech and data analytics companies, with its business structuring and commercial arrangements, including its key customer and supplier agreements.
A Sidley team assisted the Lifescape Project, a rewilding charity with a mission to catalyze the restoration and protection of wild landscapes, to respond to a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Green Paper on protected sites and species. As part of the response, the team produced a report that seeks to comprehensively outline how extensive grazing of large herbivores with minimal human interaction can be accommodated within existing legal frameworks, as well as providing a foundation for proposing areas of legislative change that could promote such practices in England and Wales.
A Sidley pro bono team finalized the lease on a new location in East London for the Women’s Inclusive Team (WIT). WIT was established in 2004 and has been supporting Black and ethnic minority communities in London through youth programs, women’s empowerment projects, mental health support, and a food bank and community kitchen.
Real Estate partner Jade Williams-Adedeji, who led the team, and Real Estate associate Yanaisha Sydamah have been advising WIT for over two years, and are proud to have played a part in ensuring WIT was able to secure a larger facility. The new premises will further enrich the services WIT is able to provide, as they continue to help the community by providing weekly food parcels and daily hot meals to hundreds of vulnerable people. They will also continue to offer guidance and employability programs to Somali women in the borough.
“Jade and Yanaisha have played an important role in ensuring that the Women’s Inclusive Team has legal counsel and representation, ensuring that we have a lease that meets our needs. Throughout this two-year journey, the Sidley team has been professional, flexible, and passionate. WIT would not have been able to cover the costs and would have been forced to accept the lease without any advice, negotiation, or knowledge of our rights. We will be eternally grateful for the pro bono assistance that far exceeded our expectations.”
— Safia Jama, MBE, CEO of WIT
The London Employment Team acted for Vision Foundation to defend a discrimination claim brought by an individual brought in to shadow a video production project. The claim was unmeritorious and was ultimately settled by another respondent. The claimant was unrepresented and significant time was spent trying to determine the claims that were being brought, which would have cost Vision a significant amount in fees.
“Sidley was immensely helpful in navigating an unfounded discrimination claim. Their generous support, knowledge, and expertise were invaluable to us as an organization, freeing up our time and resources to continue our work supporting the visually impaired community.”
— Olly Minton, Director of Finance and Resources, Vision Foundation
The London Data Privacy team assisted Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse, a charity which supports the loved ones of those who have suffered fatal domestic abuse, with putting in place a GDPR program. Sidley lawyers collated evidence to understand the charity’s data flows and then drafted various policies and procedures, including cyber incident response plans and both internal and external-facing data protection policies to put in place a robust and comprehensive data privacy regime for the charity.
Together with Pro Bono SG (formerly Law Society Pro Bono Services), a Sidley team in Singapore is developing a workshop curriculum for migrant domestic workers on their labor and employment rights. Pro Bono SG is a registered charity and an Institution of a Public Charter (IPC). Their primary objectives are to implement the provision of pro bono legal services in Singapore; to coordinate the provision of civil, criminal and community pro bono legal services; to conduct and to coordinate volunteer recruitment drives for pro bono legal services; to implement training initiatives; and to identify opportunities for pro bono legal services.
In Sidley’s Hong Kong office, our Investment Funds practice devotes significant hours to pro bono projects. Sidley has been the Hong Kong Government’s sole legal adviser in relation to a landmark new legislative development that has transformed the domestic private fund market. Additionally, Sidley established and continues to advise Hong Kong-registered charity Help for Children (Asia) Limited on all aspects of its operations, focusing on the prevention and treatment of child abuse. The Charity has become one of the largest and most well-known industry-supported charities in Asia.
In connection with this work, Sidley partner Effie Vasilopoulos, a member of Sidley’s Executive Committee and a co-leader of the Asia Pacific Investment Funds group, was awarded the “Gold Individual Award” for the fourth consecutive year by The Law Society of Hong Kong as part of its 2022 Pro Bono and Community Work Recognition Programme. The annual awards recognize legal practitioners in Hong Kong who have made exceptional contributions to the community.
Under the Trade for Development Initiative, Sidley lawyers and economists provide custom-made, pro bono legal and technical advice responding to the particular trade and investment challenges typically faced by least developed country governments, trade associations, and their subject-matter experts. Some of our 2022 initiatives included:
PILnet is a global non-governmental organization (NGO) that creates opportunities for social change by unlocking the full potential of the law. The NGO builds networks and collaborations of public interest and private lawyers to strengthen civil society and communities.
As part of the PILnet Ukraine Project, Sidley worked alongside other law firms on a pro bono basis to put together fact sheets for non-governmental organizations providing high-level guidance on the sanctions on Russia. A set of 11 focus questions have been created to potentially cover the key areas that NGOs should be considering in relation to sanctions.
The Convention Against Torture Initiative (CTI) is a global initiative of the Governments of Chile, Denmark, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, and Morocco, created to support and facilitate universal ratification and implementation of the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) by 2024. CTI works through a variety of means to strengthen institutions, policies, and practices for dignified and rule-based governance and to reduce and prevent the risks of torture and ill treatment.
Ultimately, CTI wants, once and for all, to remove torture from the toolkit of terror and oppression and to put an end to the profound traumas and societal wounds caused by this violent practice. Over the years, CTI has worked towards the full ratification of UNCAT and its improved implementation by engaging with over 160 States, organizing 30 regional seminars, and conducting 7 country visits.
“Sidley provided CTI with a detailed brief on trade links to human rights and UNCAT ratification. The brief provides CTI with relevant information to engage with States that did not yet join UNCAT on the potential trade benefits of UNCAT ratification. In turn, this allows CTI to broaden the discussion it holds with States, potentially increasing the likelihood of future UNCAT ratification. Sidley also provided CTI with background research on the legal framework of some countries relating to the prevention, investigation, prosecution, and redress for acts of torture.”
— Etienne Chenier Lafleche, CTI Human Rights Advisor