Ford Credit is setting up a pro bono initiative with the Prince's Trust, becoming, it is believed, only the third in-house legal department to provide free legal advice.
The five-strong legal team is working with Lovells, particularly Yasmin Waljee, a full-time pro bono coordinator at the firm, to provide general advice to young people who have set up companies with the trust's help.
Only two other companies in the UK are known to provide pro bono advice, Zurich Financial Services (The Lawyer, 4 October 1999) and BAe. At the time of launching the in-house pro bono initiative, both companies stipulated that their law firms must also show a commitment to pro bono work to gain instruction from the businesses.
But Natalie Jobling, director of legal services for Europe at Ford Credit, says that, although the firms used by the company, including Lovells and Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn HRK, will be asked whether they provide pro bono advice, they are not at risk of not being instructed if they do not.
She says: "Because we are interested in pro bono work we have started asking firms what their policy is on pro bono. We do not want to force them. We don't want to not want to appoint a firm if they do not do pro bono work but we do want to encourage them."
The lawyers at Ford Credit, which is a subsidiary of the US motor giant, meet recipients of support from the Prince's Trust every quarter.
Ford Credit's in-house team is attempting to establish a network of private practices to become involved in the initiative with local firm Wortley Byers, which is already signed up to provide support.
Jobling says that the in-house legal team is able to provide generalist advice. But she says that if people have more specialist queries then they will be passed onto a firm on the network.
She says: "If they need specialist advice, they will be referred to one of the firms where they will be given a limited amount of free time."
It has not yet been specified how much free time companies will get before firms start charging.