National law firm Halliwells has been added to Cancer Research UK's pro bono panel. The firm joins key players Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which works on major projects, Field Fisher Waterhouse, which advises on general commercial work and provides more day-to-day involvement, and Landwell, which acts on employment law matters.
"We've worked hard over last year to establish a pro bono panel. Halliwells is another excellent addition," says Diane Scott, director of legal at the charity. "Pro bono doesn't mean a lower quality of service, and certainly that's not the case from our panel firms. It doesn't feel like a second-rate service just because we aren't paying," she adds.
Halliwells London senior partner Clive Garston says: "We went to a Commerce and Industry group dinner and Cancer Research was there to receive the benefits of the raffle. Diane Scott asked if anybody would be interested in doing pro bono work for them. We've never had a formal pro bono programme and so I said that the firm would talk about it." Garston put the idea to the firm's executive board, which responded enthusiastically. Garston's wife is also the biggest private individual fundraiser for the Christie's Hospital in Manchester, which specialises in treating cancer.
Halliwells has dedicated a set monthly financial limit on fee-earners' time available to the charity, which will contact Garston as a first port of call.
"As they get to know the people here they can go directly to them," says Garston. "They'll be treated just as any other client."
Advice will be varied, but Garston says it is likely to include assistance on commercial contracts, employment and IP.
The charity is the largest independent cancer research organisation in the world and works alone and in partnership with other groups to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop effective treatments. Most of its £338.9m income last year came from public donations.
Much of Cancer Research's work is handled in-house and there is a formal legal panel comprising Henmans, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Wilsons and Withers. Last year, the charity hosted a pro bono event for law firms explaining what the charity did and how it raised money.
"It isn't until you explain the work that the charity does - from research, clinical trials, to using a drug for first time, as well as all the activities associated with raising £340m - that people realise it's quite a phenomenal breadth of work," says Scott.
Scott goes on to say that pro bono work is invaluable to the charity. "There's a genuine mix between the kind of project work that we would have to pay someone to do if firms didn't step up to do it, and the kind of work that would be perpetually on our list, where a decision might be made not to spend the charity's money outsourcing the work because it just wasn't big enough to warrant that."