Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Polish Pro Bono Centre

Further to Penny Blair’s 6 July 2009 post on pro bono clearinghouses and the fruitful thread that followed, the example of the Polish Pro Bono Centre can illustrate how broad activities can a clearinghouse roll out to strategically mainstream pro bono. The Polish Pro Bono Centre does not only work as focal point between NGOs and law firms. It is also active in promoting the culture of pro bono and in amending the legal framework in order to facilitate lawyers' commitment to pro bono.

The Centre is involved in granting the annual Pro Bono Lawyer Award, established by the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation. It has been lobbying for exemption of pro bono legal advice from VAT. In turn, if we look on the side of the NGOs, the lawyers who cooperate with the Centre gave five workshops to over 150 NGO managers on the legal framework of the non-profit sector.

The Centre is a young (operating since 2008) and small entity, but it is already quite well-known. Mind that it is a fruit of a discussion accompanying the signing of the Pro Bono Declaration in mid-2007. The signing ceremony was hosted by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal with participation of some important representatives of the country's legal world. “This Declaration - expressed Filip Czernicki of the Legal Clinics Foundation during the event - is inspired by the Polish legal community’s long professional tradition of public service, and affirms the critical role of pro bono practitioners in ensuring fair and equal access to justice among all segments of society.” (www.probonoinst.org/wire/09207-8.pdf, The Pro Bono Wire, Sept. 2007) The same can be said about the Centre, and I find its ability to build on and to develop the pro bono tradition a useful hint for some current West-European initiatives aiming at launching national clearinghouses.

Interestingly, the Centre has been constituted by the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation, which underlines the link between the training of young lawyers and the practice of more mature professionals.

For more information, consult:
- www.centrumprobono.pl/en/
- The Polish Legal Clinics Foundation/Lawyer Pro Bono
- The Pro Bono Wire, Sept. 2007 (the text of the Polish Pro Bono Declaration)

Posted by Jacek Kowalewski
University of Warsaw graduate
Pro bono activist in Poland and Italy

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