In-house Lawyers: Making the Case for Pro-Bono

In-house Lawyers: Making the Case for Pro-Bono

Some organisations are better than others at promoting, encouraging or supporting their employees in dedicating time to voluntary work. This article helps you make a business case for flexible working in your organisation to accommodate pro bono or charitable work.

As an employee you may think that your organisation can either do more or do it perhaps in a different way. As an in-house lawyer you have a unique set of skills that you can engage to positively contribute to local and global society and your organisation can support you in doing that. It can be difficult to know where to start and, depending on the nature of your organisation, the priorities and expectations of management will differ. However there are common themes that can you can adapt to suit your organisation.

If you are an employee that has ambitions to develop an in-house pro bono, or any other charitable, programme within your team here are some pointers to help you with your next steps.

Step 1 – Know what you want

You may have a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve already but in order to “start the conversation” make sure you know what it is you are asking for. Investing in research at this stage will enable you to communicate your ambitions in a precise manner; foresee challenges; and enable others to get on board.

Tip: Think about what you think you need; how you will go about implementing and managing the programme; and what time-frames you want to work to. Are you asking for time off work; budget; facilities to host meetings; people resources; or…?

Step 2 – Start the conversation

An ideal time to start the conversation with your line manager is during your performance review or when you set your career development plans for the year ahead. However, if you are part way through a year, don’t wait! There’s no time like the present, especially if you are looking for a budget to be allocated, as your management team will need to budget for the forthcoming financial year.

Tip: Think about how your proposal aligns with the work that you do, either from an individual or organisational perspective; how it will develop your skills; and how it can benefit the wider organisation.

If your line manager is in a position to give you the approval that you need to proceed with your proposal, then you can set the wheels in motion and kick-off! For many, however, approval will be required further up the management chain, especially if you are seeking a budget.

Step 3 – Build interest

Whether you are ready to launch your programme, or need to develop your business case further, you will need to gauge interest within your team. You want to ensure that you will have a pool of volunteers that are eager and engaged, demonstrating to management that your programme is viable.

Tip: Talk to colleagues over coffee, develop conversations more formally in team meetings, and follow-up with an email with links that are relevant to the proposed programme. Ask colleagues to “vote” for whether they would volunteer with your programme.

Step 4 – Drafting a business case

By this stage, your line manager has either indicated that they will support your proposal through to the next level of management, or has asked for more information before they can consider your proposal any further. In either case, a business case is a clear method of communicating to management, in a digestible and familiar format, the information they need to make a decision on whether to approve your programme.

Tip: Once you have a draft business case as your starting point; adapt it to your team and organisation so that it is meaningful; and ask a colleague to review and critique it before submitting it to your manager. Offer to sit down with your manager to talk through any questions before they take the business case forward to wider management for consideration and approval.