Baker & McKenzie‘s IT team has been working on a pro bono project bringing satellite IT and telecoms support to a string of major charities, including Action Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children.

Several of the firm’s lawyers are helping NetHope, a not-for-profit organisation that provides its charity members with telecoms equipment and services, to renegotiate a deal with a broadband internet service provider.

The firm’s team, led by associate Ben Allgrove, is negotiating a framework agreement between NetHope and telecoms company Skylogic. Under the agreement NetHope members will be able to purchase Skylogic’s services at a standardised, discounted rate.

The deal involves the transfer of an earlier contract struck between Skylogic and NetHope member Save the Children in 2005 to NetHope.

Bakers also drafted the earlier agreement for Save the Children, as at that time NetHope did not have charity status. The renegotiations began in July and are ongoing.

Allgrove is working opposite Skylogic’s Turin-based in-house lawyer Fabio Valles, while NetHope’s manager for the project was Joe Simmons, who is seconded part time from Cisco Systems. Cisco is a Bakers client and it is through this link that the firm became aware of the project.

A broadband affiliate of Turin-based satellite operator Eutelsat, Skylogic will coordinate broadband logistics, installations and service for NetHope’s members in 40 countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Allgrove says of the experience: “I’m an IT lawyer and there’s not normally a lot we can do on a pro bono basis. But this was an opportunity to do some good for charities who don’t normally have the
resources to negotiate deals and can’t often secure economies of scale in the same way that big businesses can.”

NetHope helps members to source satellite telephone and internet support for staff working in remote parts of the world. The organisation has installed communications to 84 sites globally and aims to double that number this year. Members include Action Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children.

Simmons says: “The project enables people delivering humanitarian aid, protecting endangered animals or whatever service it might be, to do that better, because their technology is better and their purchasing is better. Baker & McKenzie helped us to get over all the hurdles to signing the contract.”

Skylogic also donated help to NetHope prior to the renegotiation, including three months’ free satellite services for relief charities following the Asian Tsunami and earthquake in Pakistan.