CLIFFORD Chance boosted its £1m-a-year pro bono activities last week with the appointment of one of its finance lawyers, Felicity Kirk, to the new post of community legal affairs executive.
Kirk's appointment is thought to be the first time that a firm has appointed someone to co-ordinate its pro bono activities on a worldwide basis, although Clifford Chance is the third in the past 12 months - after Lovell White Durrant and Linklaters - to appoint a full-time pro bono officer .
Kirk told The Lawyer that her first task would be to establish the extent of the firm's pro bono work across its 23 offices worldwide. She added that some of its lawyers, especially the US ones at its New York office, already had a "strong attachment" to pro bono work, whereas solicitors in other overseas offices which practice only English law "are obviously much more constrained about what they can do".
The international dimension to Kirk's role has been welcomed by Peta Sweet, director of the recently formed Solicitors' Pro Bono Group (SPBG). Commenting on Kirk's appointment, Sweet said: "There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from the US in particular and other Commonwealth jurisdictions."
Kirk said her priority was to "create the right environment - to let people know that the work is appreciated and supported".
She said the firm would not be increasing the £1m-worth of time spent on pro bono work but planned to improve its focus by reducing the time its 120 volunteers spend on administration.
The SPBG's first conference, sponsored by The Lawyer, is being held on 6 June at The New Connaught Rooms, Great Queen Street, London.