Business law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr reports that it has created a dedicated Pro Bono department to deal with the significant interest it receives from graduates applying to participate in its holiday programmes, or to complete their articles of clerkship with the firm.
The firm’s pro bono services and corporate social respons-ibility initiatives will now be managed under the leadership of Fahdia Bhayat, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr senior lawyer and director.
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr director of knowledge management Monique du Preez says that pro bono work is intended to form an integral part of vacation programmes for law students and candidate attorney training programmes, given the significant number of legal graduates enquiring about its social upliftment initiatives.
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr accommodates about 30 to 40 candidate attorneys as part of the com- pany’s training programme every year. This includes the Cape Town office.
The firm also caters for about 35 students during university holiday periods. “We run a summer vacation programme during January and a winter programme during the June/July university holidays. Second- and third-year law students attend the programmes from universities across South Africa,” she says.
The programme provides students with an opportunity to experience the law in action. Du Preez explains that students spend two weeks rotating between practice areas. They are given the opportunity to attend consultations between clients and advocates, to prepare written opinions, to do legal research and to attend court proceedings.
“We also include comprehensive training sessions on various law-related issues as part of the vacation programme. In so far as the firm is concerned, the vacation programmes provide us with an opportunity to interact with students on a professional level and to identify suitable candidate attorneys who may wish to join us later to complete their articles of clerkship,” Du Preez notes.
She believes that former President Nelson Mandela is considered to be one of South Africa’s most famous socially conscious law students, and that today’s young legal graduates are learning from his example.
“We have found that, when we interview prospective law graduates, they seem to be looking for an employer who does not only offer training and career development opportunities, but, most importantly, an employer that plays a significant role in its community. They want to do more than simply complete their articles,” Du Preez notes.
“Young graduates have a remarkable social conscience. They would like their training and career development to include a strong focus on pro bono work,” she says.
The firm reports that South African legal professionals are spending, on average, more than nine hours a day in the office, which highlights the importance of providing an environment where individuals are given the opportunity to make a contri-bution to society.
The Pro Bono department works closely with international law firm DLA Piper’s global pro bono agency, New Perimeter, to identify and find solutions to the wide range of legal issues in South Africa.
“It is, among others, this pro bono work that makes us positive about the future and we intend to incorporate this element as an essential part of our training programmes,” Du Preez concludes.