Withers is committed to increasing access to justice and providing legal services without charge to those who cannot afford counsel, with the goals of improving clients’ lives, defending human rights, bettering communities and deepening our own professional experience.
We ensure that pro bono initiatives are integral to the way in which we operate as a law firm. Our global pro bono programme spans our offices and practice areas, and we do pro bono work with the same enthusiasm, resources and professional commitment that we devote to our billable work. All of our lawyers – from trainees to senior partners – have opportunities to work on a wide variety of projects that appeal to their interests and experience.
We help underserved and vulnerable communities tackle social problems and fight injustice. Our pro bono work supports a range of important social causes including human rights, the environment, gender justice, racial equity, education and poverty reduction.
Our policy and approach
As lawyers, we are committed to using our unique skills and abilities to expand access to justice. Pro bono work is central to our philosophy.
We strongly encourage all of our lawyers to contribute time to at least one pro bono project each year, working to ensure that the diverse strengths and expertise of our teams are harnessed in our efforts to shrink the justice gap.
Lawyers can choose to do pro bono work in their own regions or collaborate with other offices for global pro bono projects. We have a globally consistent solicitation, intake and recording process for pro bono work. Specific allowances for pro bono hours credit are determined on a regional basis.
We believe in a collaborative approach to pro bono, and often work alongside different stakeholders including clients, legal service providers, community organizations, international organizations, government agencies, charities, non-profits, law schools and others to broaden the reach and amplify the impact of our pro bono efforts.
We are proud to support numerous pro bono partner organizations operating locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. We have assisted more than 50 organizations, ranging from charities, public interest organizations, law schools, legal societies and foundations to local governments. Our pro bono work has benefitted clients including kidnapped children, domestic helpers, Alzheimer's patients, same-sex couples, prisoners on death row, victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, women requiring access to abortion rights and sexual and reproductive health information and services, veterans, asylum seekers, students, senior citizens, minorities in low-income communities and others.
Some of our recent pro bono work includes:
International and non-governmental organizations have documented a pattern of generalized and systematic attacks by the Venezuelan security forces against civilians. The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced a decision to open an investigation to establish the truth in accordance with the Rome Statute during the ICC Prosecutor's official visit to Venezuela in November 2021.
Withers lawyers are assisting the Clooney Foundation for Justice and Venezuelan human rights organisation Foro Penal to gather evidence of serious human rights abuses to support the ICC Prosecutor’s investigation. Our pro bono support and technical assistance are helping to ensure that the Venezuelan state perpetrators of human rights violations are held to account.
Throughout the world, women and girls are denied their reproductive rights and lack access to life-saving obstetrics care, contraception, maternal health and safe abortion services.
Withers lawyers in the United States, Europe and Asia are helping the Center address these issues. Through litigation, policy and advocacy work, we are strengthening legal guarantees to reproductive health care and decision making.
Our efforts to protect and advance women’s reproductive health, self-determination and dignity as basic human rights include work in Ecuador, El Salvador, Kenya, Malawi, the Philippines, the United States, Uganda and Zambia amongst other countries.
In the United States, racial bias has a strong effect on who is capitally prosecuted, sentenced to death, and executed.
Withers lawyers work with Amicus to help secure equal access to justice for those facing the death penalty in the United States. Our work assists those facing capital trial and punishment by providing proper legal representation and raising awareness of potential abuses of defendants’ rights.
We are assisting Ukraine as part of a Legal Task Force on Accountability for Crimes Committed in Ukraine to advise on legal responses to Russia’s invasion and support Ukraine in delivering justice for victims of international crimes committed by Russia.
Formed in March 2022, the task force’s work encompasses advice on proposals for accountability including through the United Nations and regional organizations, advice relating to civil and criminal cases in national courts (including under universal jurisdiction laws), and strategic guidance on Ukraine’s cooperation with the International Criminal Court.
In 2018, the UK government accepted that it had wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights to Commonwealth citizens from the Caribbean, Africa, and Southern Asia in what is now known as the ‘Windrush Scandal’. In 2019, the government established the Windrush Compensation Scheme which aims to provide victims with recompense for their suffering, for issues such as illegal imprisonment and deportation, loss of employment, accrual of debts and loss of homes, frozen bank accounts, lack of access to welfare benefits and health care.
The Windrush Justice Clinic is a coalition of organisations providing legal advice for victims of the Windrush Scandal. We have worked with the Southwark Law Centre to provide free, independent legal advice to applicants to the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of an Italian cable car crash, was abducted by his maternal grandfather and taken to Israel, which led to special proceedings in the Israeli Supreme Court under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Withers lawyers supported Eitan's paternal aunt and legal guardian during these proceedings, which culminated in a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court that the abduction had been illegal.
With favourable decisions by both the Italian and Israeli courts, our work enabled orphaned Eitan to be reunited with his family in Italy. Withers worked in close collaboration with Israeli colleagues from Shmuel Moran Law Offices to achieve this successful result.
The High Seas Alliance (HSA) is a partnership of organizations and groups aimed at building a strong common voice and constituency for the conservation of the ecologically important but critically threatened high seas.
We advised the High Seas Alliance (HSA) on issues of public international law and domestic legal frameworks during United Nations negotiations to elaborate the text of a new treaty to protect ocean life. Our lawyers accompanied the HSA during the intergovernmental conference session at which the treaty text was first negotiated by States and provided day-to-day support to the HSA in its advocacy with States and other stakeholders.
In March 2023, UN Member States reached a landmark agreement on the text of the new High Seas Treaty. Once the High Seas Treaty has been ratified by at least 60 countries, it will provide the legal framework to address many of the governance gaps that have plagued the ocean and provide a roadmap to conserve biodiversity areas that lie beyond national jurisdiction.
Rights for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples are very limited in Hong Kong, and same-sex relationships are not recognized by law. This is a particular problem for the legal rights of same-sex couple families.
Withers’ Hong Kong family law team represented a client in a landmark case before the High Court, where the decision granted equal custody and guardianship rights of two children to the non-biological mother of a same-sex couple family.
This case is a milestone ruling that will pave the way for other same-sex couples and their children and has changed the landscape for the LGBTQ+ community’s fight for equality in Hong Kong.
27 March 2023 | Article
States reach landmark UN Treaty to protect marine biodiversity in the high seas
27 October 2022 | Article
Withers hosts an evening with Amal Clooney discussing our longstanding work with the Clooney Foundation for Justice
7 December 2021 | Firm news