Clifford Chance is to increase its global pro bono efforts after senior partner Stuart Popham told its partners' conference that he wants the firm to have a greater focus on the external community.
The magic circle firm already has an active pro bono programme in its London and New York offices, but there are parts of the international network where there is little or no culture of pro bono activity.
Michael Smyth, the partner with overall responsibility for pro bono work at the firm, told The Lawyer: "Pro bono work can be difficult in a global firm because there are some places where it is prohibited and there can be progressively minded lawyers who are unaware of the work they can do."
This culture is already starting to change. In the past few weeks the French operation has launched its first pro bono programme. The ultimate goal for all offices is to have a comprehensive not-for-profit programme. Smyth says the firm has earmarked finance projects for NGOs as an area where its lawyers can get involved, as nearly all the firm's locations have a finance practice.
In London, Clifford Chance is involved in a number of initiatives, including FreeLaw, a programme run in conjunction with Barclays, which offers free legal advice at a centre in East London, and work with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. Its London-based lawyers completed 30,580 hours of pro bono work in the last financial year, with more than 54 per cent of fee-earners taking part.
Community affairs manager Cathy Jones said: "This is the first time we've recorded a participation rate of more than 50 per cent. We are, of course, very pleased, but there's still more to be done."