On Thursday 21 September, ahead of Heritage Day in South Africa, leading African law firm Bowmans, held an event to celebrate a decade of focussed pro bono efforts.
Bowmans managing partner, Alan Keep, highlighted that Bowmans has always been a responsible corporate citizen, and its people have been contributing their time and expertise pro bono for almost as long as the firm has existed. He said, ‘What changed 10 years ago was our approach. It became more focused, coordinated and structured so that our efforts could be directed to where they were most needed and could have the greatest impact.’
‘As we look back over the past 10 years, we can see that the journey has consisted of a series of steps – some small and some large. Together, they show what’s possible when a large law firm collaborates with others and gives of its time and resources to work on matters and projects that contribute towards a more just and equitable society.’
He pointed to the expansion of Bowmans’ pro bono function into all the firm’s offices across the African continent as a major success. He said, ‘Running a pan-African pro bono practice is a feather in our cap as a firm, but, more importantly, it’s an investment in the future of the continent.’
Bowmans’ contribution included many thousands of hours tackling a range of issues in the courts. ‘These ranged from helping needy people at various legal helpdesks to acting for clients in the Constitutional Court,’ Keep said.
‘We are proud to have been involved in helping pro bono clients secure important decisions that have led to changes in the law. For example, legal recognition for Muslim marriages and legal certainty in the fight against hate speech.’
While these were high-profile, precedent-setting matters, Keep said that Bowmans was equally proud of the small victories its lawyers had achieved on behalf of victims of gender-based violence seeking protection orders, poverty-stricken people illegally evicted from their homes, and refugees embroiled in bureaucratic red tape. He added that an impactful pro bono and CSI function is critical to the sustainability of a law firm in the environment in which we operate, and Bowmans is committed to continuing to invest in making a difference to our communities through this program.
He said it was telling that the time Bowmans lawyers had invested in pro bono work over 10 years equated to more than one full calendar year. The firm invested almost 96 500 hours valued at over about ZAR 2301-million.
Keep concluded, ‘This time has made an incalculable difference to the many individuals and non-profit organisations who received professional legal advice when it really mattered to them. As a firm, we see this as time well spent. We believe that serving the communities in which we are located on a pro bono basis is fundamental to the success of Bowmans as a leading African law firm. We are committed to making a positive impact in Africa.’