When three-year-old Isabel Maude fell ill early in 1999, ostensibly with chickenpox, there was no hint that this would lead to a major advance in medicine.
Jason and Charlotte Maude took their daughter to their GP and to hospital. Both times she was diagnosed with chickenpox. The next day Isabel collapsed. At St Mary’s, Paddington, the well-known paediatrician Dr Joseph Britto diagnosed toxic shock syndrome and necrotising fasciitis, also known as the ‘flesh-eating bug’. Despite suffering a cardiac arrest and multiple organ failures, Isabel eventually recovered.
Instead of a clinical negligence claim, the Maudes took positive steps to reduce the chances of such a misdiagnosis happening again. They arrived at the idea of a web-based clinical diagnostic tool. Jason, a friend of Beachcroft Wansbroughs’ head of commercial Simon Hodson, turned to the firm for help. It has been involved ever since.
Assistant Anthony Barratt looks after the day-to-day contact, while partner Anne Crofts leads on its IT and intellectual property (IP) requirements. The firm has advised the charity on general corporate matters, charity law, the terms, conditions and content of its website, tax matters and IP. It helped secure deals with Autonomy Corporation, which licensed its software for free, and Reed Elsevier and Oxford University Press, which licensed its medical textbooks, also free of charge. The charity launched the Isabel Knowledge Diagnostic Treatment site in June 2002. By March this year more than 9,000 medical professionals had registered.
The Lawyer verdict
Business is all about personal relationships and so, evidently, is pro bono. The success of the site is largely down to the sterling efforts of Jason and Charlotte Maude, but without Simon Hodson’s help the project may never have got off the ground. The charity’s success reflects the firm’s healthy approach to pro bono.
Beachcroft Wansbroughs is well known as a leading player in the healthcare sector, and the firm’s involvement with the Isabel Medical Charity reinforces its credentials in this market.
In the past year, 109 of the firm’s lawyers were involved in pro bono matters, with what head of communications Sarah Parsons calls “a considerable number of fee-earners and staff” volunteering for community activities and fund-raising.
Between 1 May last year and 30 April 2003, those fee-earners spent 1,266 hours on pro bono matters, with 511 of those contributed by the 20 or so partners who are involved in pro bono activities.
Partner Ivan Kremer heads up the firm’s pro bono group, which is also well known for its work with the Prince’s Trust. Beachcrofts does not have a full-time pro bono coordinator, although it does have a full-time manager of the Prince’s Trust relationship in solicitor Sian Lewis. Part of Lewis’s role is to organise the monthly legal clinics for companies seeking funding, which could be anything from a recording studio to a florist.