“All civil society organisations must be able to access the legal system – regardless of size and budget”: Pro Bono Connect works to link up nonprofits and expert lawyers – for free! 

More and more young lawyers are giving over some of their hours for ‘Pro Bono’ work: giving help for free. Pro Bono Connect works to, perhaps unsurprisingly, connect these lawyers and law firms with with nonprofits and NGOs in the Netherlands. We spoke to Veronika Pišorn to find out more! 

By Thomas Ansell

“Pro Bono Connect was begun to address a double need: matching organizations with lawyers, and promoting the culture of pro bono collaboration”, says Veronika. “More and more lawyers and law firms are looking to make a social impact by sharing their hours and expertise with good causes at no cost, and plenty of nonprofits, NGOs, and impact organisations are in need of such support.” Over the seven years since the organisation begun, this has evolved to a matching service covering the whole spectrum of legal support, from representation to advice, research and legal design. Whether a CSO is looking to bring about change through litigation as part of an advocacy activity, or simply needs assistance with contracts, legal compliance, registration, or risk assessment. 

“Whilst many organisations don’t have in-house counsel, they will have a thematic knowledge base that is specific to their organisation’s mission”, says Veronika, “they may require some external assistance with [for example] strategic litigation: bringing a case to court to help bring about a precedent, with using existing legislation in an innovative way; for example pertaining to human rights due diligence of businesses or liability for climate-change related activities.” Pro Bono Connect works to create meaningful and interesting opportunities for lawyers to contribute to legal work in the public interest – which naturally has a double benefit! 

Pro Bono Connect is an initiative of the Dutch Commission of Jurists Human Rights Committee and works in partnership with seventeen of the Netherlands’ largest law firms.  This means there is a huge wealth of expertise available for nonprofits and other organisations committed to social change. “We also hold events, workshops and rechtswinkels [free legal aid clinics], so that organisations of any size can access high-quality legal advice on a range of issues, from operational through to strategic”, says Veronika.  

The organisation also holds expert seminars intended to help demystify certain aspects of Dutch law. Members of The Hague Humanity Hub are invited to join the next one, on June 20 in Amsterdam, that will cover the Dutch laws that govern foundations (Stichtingen). Organizations will have a chance to speak with lawyers and students from the “Foundations and Startups” free legal advice center. The workshop is especially relevant for new initiatives and organizations just starting out. Registration is open until June 10! 

How can an organisation access help? 

The Pro Bono Connect process most often begins by submitting a request through their website. The team will then look into the request, and make sure the organization and request fall within their mandate. Once the NGO’s needs are clear, the Pro Bono Connect team checks with their network of legal professionals to see who has the most appropriate expertise and availability, before making the connection between nonprofit and law practitioner. If, for whatever reason, a match can’t be made at that time, the Pro Bono team will help with other possible avenues to access legal services.  

The Hague Humanity Hub and Pro Bono Connect will be working together on a knowledge-sharing session for Members of The Hague Humanity Hub on June 15. Stay tuned to our website and social media for more information! Pro Bono Connect also regularly holds its own events that are free to access for nonprofits and CSO’s. For more information, check out their website. Our thanks to Veronika and Pro Bono Connect for their help putting together this piece! 

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash