Zurich in-house demands firms commit to pro bono

Zurich Financial Services' in-house legal team says it will demand that any firms it instructs in the future must show a commitment to pro bono work.

Zurich Financial Services' 19-strong Swindon-based legal team has become only the second in-house team to join the Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG).

William Flynn, head of the litigation team at the company, says he will now be asking its external law firms to offer free legal advice in the future.

Says Flynn: “We are in a privileged position and we thought the time was right to get involved.”

British Aerospace (BAe) was the first in-house team to join the SPBG initiative over a year ago.

BAe followed this up earlier in the year by demanding that its chosen external firms showed a commitment to pro bono or face being removed from its panel, as reported by The Lawyer (8 March).

Flynn says that Zurich Financial Services has applied to the Law Society for a waiver from the professional conduct rule which states that in-house lawyers can advise only their own company.

Flynn says the in-house team began its pro bono programme last month which involves the company's lawyers working on a rota system, providing litigation and debt collection advice at Swindon Citizens advice Bureau each Thursday evening.

Peta Sweet, the departing director at the SPBG, says: “It is very positive. There is a lot of interest from in-house lawyers and we hope they will consider the benefits of joining and supporting the SPBG.”