WILHK recognises the value in supporting pro bono legal initiatives in Hong Kong and wishes to raise awareness about the legal pro bono landscape.
Click here to view our NGO Interview Series.
Want to do pro bono work?
Details on Hong Kong's 'clearing houses' for NGO projects
PILnet and TrustLaw operate independent and different systems seeking to match NGOs and social enterprises in need of legal assistance with private practice and in-house teams able to provide pro bono assistance. We summarise the two systems below. Please feel free to contact them to join their lists or to find out more about their projects and services.
TrustLaw is Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono matching service. They work to connect leading legal teams with high-impact NGOs and social enterprises working to create social and environmental change, via an online platform for a streamlined experience.
TrustLaw is a growing network of 650+ law firms and in-house legal teams serving over 3500 NGOs and social enterprises in 175 countries. TrustLaw is a completely free service: Go to apply.trust.org and get started in a few clicks. For eligibility criteria and more information about how TrustLaw works, please check out their 1-pager infographic and FAQs. You can also read their latest stories of impact featuring lawyers, NGOs and social enterprises.
PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law (PILnet) is a global non-profit organisation with offices in Budapest, Hong Kong and New York. PILnet connects the legal profession around the world and works to engage, empower and enable those who use the law to represent the public interest. Over the past 20 years, PILnet has developed a network that spans the public and private sides of the profession.
Since the establishment of its Hong Kong office in 2013, PILnet has focused on building pro bono commitments among Hong Kong based law firms and building legal capacity among NGOs and social enterprises. The main vehicle through which it conducts this work is the Hong Kong Pro Bono Clearinghouse, a pro-bono matchmaking platform that helps support NGOs by matching them up with law firms that can provide high-quality pro bono legal assistance. In the last two and a half years, PILnet has helped find pro bono lawyers for nearly 100 NGOs in Hong Kong through the Clearinghouse. NGOs needing pro bono legal support and lawyers interested in joining PILnet's network should email PILnet at email@example.com.
There are some things you should know before taking on pro bono work if you are in-house counsel, because there are some regulatory restrictions in some circumstances. Read Pro bono legal work in Hong Kong: a guide for in-house Counsel, prepared by DLA Piper and the Association of Corporate Counsel Hong Kong to find out more.
Help disadvantaged Hong Kong girls be more confident and healthy!
InspiringHK's SportsCHAT programme teams up women buddies with secondary school girls from disadvantaged areas. Together they will take part in a sports challenge and workshops, and encourage each other to exercise. A win-win!
By being a buddy, you will:
Get free sports classes as part of the programme – InspiringHK has hired the best Krav Maga master in Hong Kong
Meet with women leaders and Hong Kong team athletes – ambassadors include Hong Kong's top professional boxer, Rex Tso the Wonder Kid
Network with like-minded female peers – representatives from banks, law firms and corporates have signed up
Sign up ASAP if you are:
Interested in doing sports
Open-minded and energetic
Enthusiastic to inspire and be inspired by young girls
A good level of English is required; Cantonese is not a requirement
For more details and enrolment click here
Enrolment Deadline: 13 Feb 2019
For enquiries, please contact Ms Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org
HandsOn Hong Kong
Women In Law Hong Kong (WILHK) kicked off 2019 events calendar by cohosting with HandsOn Hong Kong and Stephenson Harwood on the 'New year, new chance to volunteer!' lunch seminar on 10th January. Around 50 members attended to learn from Sue Toomey and Lisa Lam about Hong Kong's social needs and how we can provide much-needed support through volunteering. Action now by checking their public calendar featuring more than 100 volunteer activities each month to plan for your 2019 volunteering schedule!
For supporting The Hong Kong Centre for Pro Bono Service
WILHK is proud to support the Fundraising Campaign 500*500 of The Hong Kong Centre for Pro Bono Service. Give the Gift of Justice. Join 500 Club and donate HK$500 to the Legal Clinic via the following link: https://simplygiving.com/event/probono and visit www.probono.org.hk for more information.
Pro Bono Legal Guide for Hong Kong In-House Counsel Launched
WILHK was delighted to join forces with the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and DLA Piper to discuss their pro bono guide for in-house counsel. Annette Bain and Annette Beashel of DLA Piper guided over 40 in-house counsel and interested parties expertly on:
the regulatory and insurance requirements applicable to in-house counsel who wish to provide legal advice and/or pro bono professional assistance in Kong Kong
how to establish an in-house pro bono programme in Hong Kong and the various models available
Full details and guidance can be found in their great guide, which is available here.
2018 Asia Pro Bono Conference
Conference Dates: 25-27 October 2018
The 7th annual Asia Pro Bono Conference was held in Hong Kong this year and WILHK was proud to be one of the Supporting Organisations.
The Asia Pro Bono Conference is an initiative founded in 2012.The event celebrates and emphasises pro bono legal work and legal ethics, discussing ways to further the outreach of the pro bono ethos and impact throughout Asia and around the globe. The three day Conference includes presentations, panel discussions, question and answer sessions, and interactive workshops led by experienced international lawyers and law professors. The sessions speak of the challenges and successes of pro bono work in the lawyers’ respective countries. The Conference brings together lawyers, academics, law students, jurists, pro bono professionals, policy makers, civil society and non-profit representatives, and provides a unique platform for you to hear from and engage with your peers, who are inspiring others and positively impacting the lives of some of the region’s most disadvantaged individuals and marginalised communities.
This year, Urszula McCormack, Head of Pro Bono of WILHK, chaired a panel on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector, entitled “Hidden in plain sight – Women as collateral damage in international development.” You can download the slides from the session on thissite. Our Pro Bono Committee member Tinny Ip was also helping to organise the cultural and social committee events for the conference which included the signature Jumbo Celebration dinner where delegates from different countries continue the tradition of cultural performances.
Next Year the conference will be in Nepal!
Corporate Governance Workshop
WILHK, PILnet, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) and PwC co-organised the pro bono workshop - “The Global Network for Public Interest Law” on 19 January 2018 discussing corporate governance and directors duties for Hong Kong charities and NGOs. Over 70 delegates representing charities, NGOs, law firms, and in house teams attended this workshop. Hayden Flinn and Stacey Guo from KWM started by discussing the director’s duties under Hong Kong Law, followed by Duncan Fitzgerald from PwC discussing special considerations for directors of NGO’s, including good governance structures, key sensitive issues and key considerations. After that Hayden, Duncan and Stacey led a panel to have an interactive discussion with the floor. Below are some important takeaways from the workshop:
· Directors of NGOs are essentially subject to the same legal duties as directors of commercial companies. These duties apply even if the director is not paid any remuneration
· Ensure the organisation actively pursues its mission / objects that are set out in the organisation’s articles or elsewhere
· Not place oneself in a position of conflict by disclosing actual and potential conflicts of interest (including those of family members) prior to board meetings, abstain from voting where there is a material conflict of interest, not exercise powers to gain personal advantage or advantage for someone else, not accept personal benefits from third parties and to keep information received confidential
· Breach of the duties may be subject to liabilities under both common law and statute
Thank you once again to the accomplished speakers and engaged audience for all their insights and questions. We look forward to the next workshop in the near future.
WILHK participated in the latest meeting of the Hong Kong Pro Bono Roundtable hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills Hong Kong on 26 June 2017. The Hong Kong Pro Bono Roundtable is a group of pro bono/CSR lawyers from Hong Kong's law firms and in-house legal teams. They meet quarterly to discuss topical issues and initiatives. Anita Phillips, WILHK vice-chair, was invited to address the group on WILHK's recent pro bono initiatives and opportunities for collaboration. As a result of the session, WILHK will work with stakeholders to discuss Hong Kong's pro bono clearinghouse system to allocate projects to law firms. This builds on WILHK's 'match-making' event to place NGO projects in May 2017.
Hong Kong Pro Bono Roundtable
In May 2017, WILHK committee members Stephanie Sheng and Yea Ji Sohn, along with Linklaters and Freshfields lawyers, traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to deliver pro-bono training at the Khmer Rouge Trial Court. The pro-bono initiative was organized by Hagar International. The training focused on (i) preparing local lawyers for interviewing traumatized witnesses, and (ii) best practices for legal case management.
The opportunity for individual lawyers to work with an NGO on a meaningful project demonstrates the type of pro-bono opportunities and initiatives that WILHK seeks to provide to its membership. Please continue to look for upcoming opportunities for unique pro-bono projects here.
Hagar’s program in Cambodia operates a Legal & Protection Unit, which is responsible for two main areas. First, the unit ensures that there are strong and effective client protection practices in place within the organization to protect the security and welfare of the vulnerable individuals with whom Hagar works. Secondly, the Unit provides legal services to Hagar's clients who are pursuing justice for the crimes committed against them, either within Cambodia or in overseas prosecutions. This includes coordinating court cases in conjunction with external lawyers, and helping to prepare clients for court. Additionally, the Legal & Protection Unit has more recently focused on building the capacity of the Cambodian legal and judicial sector by providing innovative training and legal expertise.
“Hagar is extremely fortunate to have strong partnerships within the legal sector that allow us to leverage their expertise to better protect survivors of extreme abuse. The recent training developed and held by a group of Hong Kong and Singapore based lawyers in Cambodia is a prime example of how these types of collaborations can have a wider systemic impact on addressing abuse of the most vulnerable.” Micaela Cronin, CEO, Hagar International
Hagar International Pro Bono Project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
WILHK and Clifford Chance pro bono matchmaking breakfast
Women in Law Hong Kong, together with Clifford Chance, organized on 9 May 2017 a breakfast meeting to meet NGOs currently in need of pro bono legal support. SoCo, Hong Kong Unison, Mother’s Choice and IBET were invited to present their organisation and projects on which they would like legal assistance to a group of lawyers and in-house counsel. There was a short presentation by each NGO and then a Q&A to find out more about each project – our aim was that by the end of the meeting, we would have aligned lawyers with the NGOs with a view to kicking off specific pro bono projects in the next few weeks. Clifford Chance kindly sponsored and hosted the meeting.
Below is information on the projects and NGOs featured at the meeting. We are pleased to report that most projects have now been placed. Please reach out to the organisations directly if you would like to offer pro bono assistance, and keep WILHK updated of any projects you take on.
Following the positive feedback received from this event, we will be organising similar events in the next few months so do drop WILHK an email if you would like to attend or propose an NGO to present its project.
Click the buttons on the left to find out more!
The Integrated Brilliant Education Trust (IBET) is a Section 88 tax exempt charity that is providing critically needed educational support to Hong Kong's underprivileged and marginalized ethnic minority students. IBET is empowering these children with the requisite educational life-skills needed to blossom and integrate in to Hong Kong's mainstream society by providing them with critically needed educational support in Chinese language and other subjects.
To that end, IBET's vision is being realised via it's first Education Bureau registered Education Center in Jordan, which provides highly subsidized educational support to these children. The endeavour is to equip the students to pursue and complete education in local schools and tertiary institutions in Hong Kong.
Since being operational in June 2015, IBEC(J) has provided tutorial support to well over 250 underprivileged ethnic minority students. The Center provides a holistic educational experience for it's students from kindergarten up to secondary school. Classes are on going from Monday to Saturday.
IBET's Social Integration Program: Is a unique platform created whereby the students are taken on meticulously planned educational trips to the Hong Kong Science Museum, Kadoorie Farms and Botanical Gardens, Hong Kong Wetland Park, Chinese New Year Fair Stall at Victoria Park. The students have benefitted immensely from the rare opportunities to practice their Chinese language skills in a public environment. Such out-of-classroom experiences ensure language and cultural immersion during the trips thus facilitating their seamless integration into Hong Kong's social fabric.
Sports Day: To encourage the students to adopt a healthy lifestyle, our Jordan Center hosts an annual fun-filled Sports Day for all its students. An integral part of the IBET philosophy is to promote active living among the students via the Sports Day.
IBET requires pro bono legal assistance as follows:
Review existing Board Governance structure and formulate agreements with different kinds of trustees, advisors. Clarify role profiles and expectations.
Beneficiaries of the project:
Children of the underprivileged ethnic minorities living in Hong Kong.
No specific deadline.
One off or on going:
Most of the work is one off and we may need to confer sometimes.
For more details, please contact Manoj Dhar at 9300 9171 or email at email@example.com.
Society for Community Organization (SoCO) Project suggestions
Society for Community Organization is a Hong Kong based human rights organization which advocates the rights of the poor and the marginalized. Our advocacy is based on solid research and policy recommendations.
Research project 1: Due process in prison sentence reviews
People who have been sentenced to 10-20 years in prison are entitled to have their sentences reviewed. An earlier release for people who are ready to be rehabilitated would be highly beneficial to the prisoner. The Long Term Sentences Review Board is responsible for reviewing individual cases. Although each year around 500 cases are reviewed, usually none or just 1-2 are granted early release.
There are issues in relation to due process, such as the right to make representations, receiving relevant written material to defend ones case which is lacking. SoCO advocates for a more transparent and fair system.
The research reviews legislation and policies abroad in order to make policy recommendations to the government.
Deadline: December 2017
Research project 2: Cultural and religious rights in prison
Non-Chinese prisoners often feel unwelcome because the prison system does not cater adequately to their cultural, religious and language needs.
SoCO would like to advocate for better legislation and guidelines and would therefore be interested in the following research:
- What are the international standards regarding cultural and religious rights of detainees/prisoners, especially regarding food, praying, language issues.
- Review of overseas legislation and policy.
Deadline: December 2017
Research project 3: Study on the legal reasoning and basis for sentencing in Medical Council's professional misconduct disciplinary inquiries
SoCO advocates for patient's rights and advocate for a fair and just complaint mechanism to handle complaints against medical practitioners. Hundreds of complaints from the patients and family relatives were received in each year. Complaints against medical doctors in relation to professional misconduct will be referred to the Medical Council for disciplinary inquiries.
However, it has been criticized that the Medical Council, the quasi-judicial body which monitors the professional conduct of the medical profession, is biased or too lenient to medical doctors who were found to have misconduct, and did not act in due process. The legal reasoning and sentencing policy is in doubt and an in-depth legal review is required.
(1) Examine the past rulings of the Medical Council ( over the past years in accordance with the legal principles;
(2) Study the experience of other common law jurisdictions, such as UK, Australia
(3) Recommend reform for Hong Kong Medical Council
Deadline: December 2017
For more details, please contact Annie Lin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHY HONG KONG NEEDS US
Despite Hong Kong’s reputation for wealth and business, the needs of our city are overwhelming. One in four children in Hong Kong live in poverty, and thousands are at-risk due to family breakdown, neglect, abuse, and abandonment. At Mother’s Choice, we focus on a key group of vulnerable people in our city – children without families and pregnant teenagers. Over 3,500 children in Hong Kong live in institutional care, and are growing up without the presence of a safe, loving, and permanent family, which is detrimental to their development. Of Hong Kong’s 7,000 girls facing crisis pregnancy each year, the majority are young girls with no one to turn to.
The challenges of children living in institutional care, teenage crisis pregnancy, and family breakdown are a vicious cycle that is hard to break. Most young children who enter into institutional care stay for years, with many leaving the system at age 18 without ever knowing the love and support of a family.
Research shows that when children live in institutional care, they are more likely to experience physical and mental health problems, be incarcerated, have addiction issues, and if they are a girl, to face a crisis pregnancy. Teenage girls with young babies are more likely to place their children into institutional care
– and the cycle continues again.
Mother’s Choice is committed to ending this vicious cycle.
WHAT WE DO
When a baby comes to us, we provide high quality loving and temporary care with early intervention support through our Child Care Home and Project Bridge foster care. We are a voice for every child to be in a safe, loving, and permanent family as soon as possible.
When a girl comes to us, we commit to give her the love she deserves and we welcome her into our family. We listen to her story without judgement, and provide comprehensive information for her to make a decision and be empowered to step into the future of her choice.
We believe that every family needs a supportive community in order to thrive. We run workshops, trainings, and reunions for foster and adoptive families to support them in the unique journey of parenting, and we identify and wrap around struggling birth families to support them.
WHAT MAKES US UNIQUE
➥ Tailored Intervention – Our in-house medical and therapy teams give an assessment to each of the 160+ babies, and children with special needs who come to us each year, allowing us to tailor an individual education plan for each child, without wasting years waiting for a public assessment. This immediate intervention is crucial, and has shown to dramatically increase each child’s chances to be matched with a permanent family.
➥ Innovative Solutions – We innovate to find new solutions to complex problems. With a broken model of traditional foster care, and institutions across the city at maximum capacity, we are pioneering a foster care pilot, Project Bridge, which in its first phase has seen over 30 children move into families in the community before joining their permanent family. Each child who otherwise would have nowhere else to go has flourished, and the experience has also changed the lives of the families who have opened their homes and hearts.
➥ Community Partnership – Our workforce is made up of 80% volunteers! We mobilise over 500 committed and passionate volunteers each week to serve our babies, girls, and families. We’re serious about inviting the community to partner with us, not only because it keeps our costs down, but also because we believe it takes a village to raise a child, and everyone has a role to play.
➥ Advocate for Children – We passionately fight for every child to be in a safe, loving, and permanent family, even when it seems impossible. When barriers prevent this, we are willing to do whatever it takes, and even seek the help of many of the city’s best doctors and lawyers to provide pro bono help for children who are “stuck”. We won’t give up until every child is in a loving family.
➥ Commitment to Life Transformation – We believe in breaking the cycle one person at a time, and our social workers spend hours with every girl who comes to us for help. We are committed to walking with her, not just through the crisis, but beyond by helping her to set up a solid support network of family and friends that she can face her future with.
For more details: please contact us at 3915 5740 or email at email@example.com.
THIS WAY – Finding Community Legal Assistance in Hong Kong
PILnet and DLA Piper have examined the status of access to justice in Hong Kong in a new report, THIS WAY – Finding Community Legal Assistance in Hong Kong. The report considers the legal needs of low income and vulnerable communities in Hong Kong, the free legal services that are available, and the gaps that exist in between.
The report suggests that early legal assistance is the key to access to justice in Hong Kong.
Key findings include:
-The current system of community legal services in Hong Kong is ill-equipped to handle urgent cases, provide continuity in legal support, or offer specialist legal advice most relevant to community needs.
-The poorest members of the community often have numerous problems which compound each other, e.g., unemployment can lead to debt, homelessness can lead to conflict with the law. Immigration status and domestic violence are other examples of situations which generate complex and multi-layered legal issues.
-There is no visible entry point to free legal advice and services in Hong Kong, and navigating this maze can be tough for people of limited means or education.
-There are regulatory barriers to NGOs employing lawyers, and certain categories of lawyers, such as retired lawyers, law professors, general counsel, providing pro bono assistance.
-There are excellent examples of community legal programs in other common law jurisdictions which could be adapted in Hong Kong.
The report made 24 recommendations for improving access to justice in Hong Kong, including:
-The establishment of community-based legal centres that can provide legal services from initial advice through to referral and representation;
-That a comprehensive assessment of unmet legal needs in Hong Kong, with a focus on the poor and vulnerable groups should be conducted;
-That professional bodies review policies and rules to better enable lawyers to do community legal work, to engage in full-time public interest work for NGOs, and to facilitate the establishment of not-for-profit law firms; and
That current service providers should undertake a strategic review of their legal assistance services and their effectiveness.
This report also makes suggestions on the specific changes needed in order to have a more enabling environment for lawyers to provide pro bono services, for NGOs to hire staff lawyers, and for non-for-profit law firms to be established.