March 30, 2020
The Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo) has launched a new collaborative platform to co-ordinate the global private law firm pro bono response to legal needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hosted through a law firm’s High Q Collaborate account, the ‘APBCoCovid-19 response’ platform provides a place for law firms and key stakeholders to collectively map, update and analyze legal need and response across multiple jurisdictions.
The platform was initially designed to provide APBCo members with rapid signposting to existing crisis response infrastructure in jurisdictions where this had activated. Legal aid and not-for-profit advice organizations worldwide were already assessing and responding to the legal needs that were being generated by the pandemic. With offices in multiple jurisdictions, the platform will enable law firm pro bono teams to stay updated on every location without needing to check in with individual contacts in each jurisdiction.
In addition to ensuring real-time updates for all APBCo firms, use of the site will free up not-for-profit, community advice and legal service organizations from the need to respond to multiple individual firm requests as to what legal needs their lawyers could assist on; or what legal needs they are yet to address where firms could consider their role in responding to.
Recognizing the wider interest in understanding what legal needs were already being met and what new needs might require pro bono support, APBCo’s board took the decision to open the platform more widely. Accordingly, invitations to the site have been sent to law firms around the world whose lawyers are involved in local or regional pro bono initiatives and collaborations, including the UK Collaborative Plan for Pro Bono, European Pro Bono Managers Network and firms involved in the Australian legal sector pro bono response.
In conjunction with these networks, invitations are also being shared with a number of partners in the not-for-profit advice and legal service communities so that they too can share information and track what legal needs might not be met through existing advice services.
In addition to supporting the co-ordination of “who is doing what” in a given location, the use of a single global platform allows users to look at what issues – and solutions – are emerging in other jurisdictions, providing advanced warning of legal issues that may be yet to emerge in their own country and also giving ideas of solutions that could be adapted to work elsewhere.
APBCo has already rolled out access to the platform for 145 law firms around the world, with those firms gearing up to map and track legal issues from 104 legal jurisdictions spread across 41 countries.
This week APBCo will continue reaching out to bring more pro bono networks and roundtables on board, ensuring that the same global and national pro bono, advice sector and legal service organizations our members work with already are able to join us in monitoring and understanding where we can best work together to support their work in the coming months.
When a clearer picture of the needs emerges in the coming weeks, APBCo’s Collaboration site will enable APBCo to give sensible direction to the pro bono community, roll out the right trainings and create appropriate working groups. APBCo’s prior efforts have been successful in large part because the organization avoided mobilizing prematurely and took the time to identify needs and assess how we could best contribute. APBCo’s plan is to follow the same approach here.
“Over the last two weeks I have spoken with colleagues from law firm pro bono teams in multiple countries,” said Rebecca Greenhalgh, Co-President of APBCo and Senior Associate and Pro Bono Manager at Ashurst. “They are some of the busiest departments in many firms right now: trying to maintain their own firm’s pro bono work remotely; supporting colleagues in taking on the everyday legal queries that still exist; trying to support our partners in front line not-for profit advice and legal service communities as many of them face a battle for financial survival; and trying to ascertain where they could direct their firms’ pro bono resources in the coming weeks. By sharing the load on this last task, we ensure every firm will be ready to help.”
“The 145 law firms we have already added to this platform have the ability to direct the pro bono support of over 131,000 lawyers globally,” said Steve Schulman, Co-President of APBCo and Pro Bono Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. “The scale and range of legal need that communities will face makes it crucial to ensure law firms are all on the same page in understanding where pro bono resources will be of most help, in every country that firms operate in. Opening our platform to the wider legal advice community with which we work is a rapid and accessible way to achieve this.”
The Association of Pro Bono Counsel is a membership organization of more than 250 attorneys and practice group managers who run pro bono practices in more than 100 of the world’s largest law firms (www.abpco.org).
APBCo membership is limited to attorneys who manage a law firm practice on at least a 50% basis, and non-attorneys who manage a law firm pro bono practice on a full-time basis or who provide programmatic (not administrative) support to an APBCo member on a full-time basis.