The 2016 European Pro Bono Forum took place in a year of growing inequality and decreasing social cohesion. In this context, the Forum, our global network, and this community are more critical than ever. The focus of the event—how to use law in creative ways to make our world a better, more equal, more just place—had added urgency, and the partnerships that we build during each annual Forum took on an added significance. Quite fitting then, that our discussions took place this year in the Netherlands, a country known as a gidsland: a small, progressive country that historically has led by example.
Participants joined with a sense of purpose; to not only learn and share pro bono expertise, but to build the kind of social capital that can help to mend what is broken in our societies. The kind that bridges divisions within society, that builds ties and friendships with people of a different nationality, religion or race, with a different economic class, occupation or age. In other words, making the effort to connect with and trust others outside your immediate circle. When our governments are intent on building walls rather bridges, events like the Forum are a critical opportunity to build and harness our own social capital.
Read on for a recap of the exciting things that happened at the PILnet 10th Annual European Pro Bono Forum last November in Amsterdam.
You can also see information about the growth of Pro Bono work in Europe in
A modern pro bono movement is beginning to emerge in Europe. Although the tradition of pro bono practice stretches as far back as ancient and medieval Europe, modern pro bono practice has been developed anew, especially since the 1990s, by NGOs, foundations, and private lawyers. The emergence of modern pro bono practice in Europe was aided by the growth and internationalization of US and UK law firms committed to the institutionalization of pro bono in all of their offices, which has also coincided with a decline in legal aid in Europe. This report documents the long history of pro bono in Europe, with a special emphasis on developments in the past 10 years, which have witnessed significant activity toward building a culture of and the infrastructure for pro bono practice in Europe. Some of the field’s central debates and dilemmas, especially for its future, are captured here as a part of that review.
This summary is a general overview of the issues covered in PILnet’s 10-year report, put together by Lamin Khadar. The full report is available in a PDF printable version and is also available on the PILnet website.