iProbono, an initiative founded by Shireen Irani at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, has been recognised by Prime Minister David Cameron for its work connecting organisations in need of legal assistance with students and lawyers who wish to offer their skills for the public good.
The award recognises the success of the online network in extending and transforming the provision of probono activity in the legal field. As a free service, iProbono has opened up the field to enable a greater and more diverse group of people to get involved in pro bono activities in their communities. Students can get involved, as can lawyers who are sole practitioners, retired, on sabbatical or maternity leave and those working for smaller firms and gives a wider range of charities and other civil society organisations access to free legal advice.
i-Probono works by connecting registered members who indicate their experience and the kind of social causes they would like to be involved in with the organisations in need of help, who register and post projects. iProbono generates a list of suitable matches from the network and sends targeted email alerts to volunteers.
In 2008, founder Shireen Irani pitched the idea to her colleagues at Fieldfisher after seeing a need to connect the demand for pro bono legal assistance and demand from lawyers who wanted to offer their skills. Seed funding was provided by Fieldfisher, an independent board was formed in 2009 and Shireen was seconded to build the idea in 2010.
iProbono is now an independent charity with 12 staff members across the UK and South Asia. The network has expanded to include organisations and lawyers from around the world and is supported by the Ford Foundation and the Commonwealth Foundation.
iProbono’s achievements since 2009 include:
- 486 projects posted by civil society organisations have been matched up, providing value of over £6.6million to the social sector.
- iProbono's network extends to over 40,000 volunteers and over 1,000 charities can access the network.
- iProbono has been welcomed by the legal community: invited to join the Attorney General's International Pro Bono Committee in 2011, recognised by the International Bar Association as one of the global brokers of pro bono services - and for its support of iProbono, Fieldfisher won the British Legal Award for CSR Initiative of the Year in 2011.
Founder, Shireen Irani said:
"iProbono's impact is only made possible by the members of our network. We believe public service is an integral part of being a professional - beyond duty, people want to engage in their communities, they want to have a positive impact in the world. Harnessing the internet enables iProbono to find these people and free them up to connect with the causes they care about. This Award recognises the individual efforts of those people and also the civil society organisations on our network. They are some of the best in the sector - from small social enterprises, to international development organisations, we witness great stories of change and we are privileged to be able to support them. iProbono would not have taken off without the backing of Fieldfisher whose people believed in the ethos of iProbono, nurtured our growth and continue to support us today. Their commitment to innovation and service underpins our network."
Fieldfisher Managing Partner Michael Chissick said:
"Our firm is very proud of how iProbono has developed over the years and the contribution it has made in advising on social projects in India and the UK. Shireen was instrumental in setting this up and getting it off the ground. We are also very proud to have been part of this process and help nurture it through its infancy."
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