Allen & Overy (A&O) has become the first City firm to embark on a pan-European pro bono project. All of A&O's European offices are working for the Belgian charity Child Focus, which was set up in response to the paedophile ring crisis that rocked Belgium in the mid-1990s.
A&O is widely believed to be the first City firm to coordinate and run an integrated pro bono project on an international level.
A&O Belgian partner and project leader Francis Herbert said: “It combines the skills and resources of a number of our offices, demonstrating that we are truly a global firm. It allows our lawyers to make important recommendations on an important area of law concerning the protection of children.”
Child Focus aims to support the investigation and prevention of disappearance, abduction and sexual exploitation of children. A&O's eight European offices have been instructed by Child Focus to examine the legal framework pertaining to parental abduction in the countries in which A&O operates. The firm's Brussels, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Paris and Lux-embourg offices are all involved.
The A&O relationship with Child Focus started in Belgium, through the Brussels office. A&O's move has been met with interest by other City firms.
“Our international offices do specific projects, but based in their own practice areas. I very much believe this is a first,” commented Yasmin Waljee, the pro bono coordinator at Lovells.
A&O is not the only City firm doing pro bono work in international offices. Ashurst Morris Crisp launched an initiative to get all of its international offices handling pro bono work late last year (The Lawyer, 3 December 2001). Ashursts has earmarked Paris and Frankfurt as the first locations where it will launch pro bono schemes. Clifford Chance and Lovells also have considerable pro bono operations in the US and Germany respectively.
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