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Four of Birmingham's top commercial law firms have joined forces to launch the city's first pro bono clinic.
The collaboration between DLA Piper, Eversheds, Hammonds and Wragge & Co, which was two years in the making, was announced last Thursday (15 November) to coincide with Pro Bono Week.
Free legal services will be available to Birmingham's public from February 2008 and will initially take the form of weekly evening clinics at the city's Central Library.
Each firm will do one week a month on a rotational basis to ensure that the lawyers can find a balance between work and the pro bono clinic.
The four law firms have pooled more than 80 lawyers interested in assisting the unit. Steve Butt, Eversheds corporate responsibility director, said it was a challenge to get the clinic off the ground as, unlike in London, the regions tend to not have law centres to run clinics from.
"That's why we were so grateful when the Central Library jumped at the chance," said Butt. "It's been a task to find the right community partner as the pro bono ethos in the city is still growing and not as advanced as in London. Things, however, are now moving in the right direction."
Commenting on the service the firms will provide, Butt said: "Initially we're looking to offer clients debt and welfare benefits advice.
"Of course, offering small businesses advice would be the most comfortable fit with us all being commercial firms, but we all saw it as important to meet the unmet needs, and these are two specific areas that required attention."