White & Case has become the first corporate law firm to join the Innocence Network UK (INUK), in what is believed to be an unprecedented move.
In a bid to launch its own pro bono programme, the US firm has partnered with the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP), which launched INUK about six years ago under the leadership of Michael Naughton and Gabe Tan.
Partner and head of the firm’s commercial litigation practice John Reynolds said: “Having read an article a while ago about Naughton setting up INUK it struck me that this is an area that would interest and engage our lawyers, using and developing their legal skills while contributing to a valuable cause. The enthusiasm with which this has been taken up by our lawyers has proved me right.”
White & Case’s Innocence Project currently has around 20 members including two partners, eight associates and six trainee solicitors. In preparation for its first case the volunteers undertook an intensive one-day training programme with the UoBIP founders.
To date, the firm has taken on one large case but hopes to get involved with more in the future.
Head of pro bono Felicity Kirk said: “We’re constantly looking to broaden our pro bono programme to reach those who could not otherwise access our services.
“Our innovative partnership with the Innocence Network adds a further dimension to our disputes resolution pro bono practice and we hope that other firms will sign up to take on this important work.”
UoBIP has helped to set up around 30 Innocence Projects in UK universities, relying on the goodwill of more than 500 staff and enthusiastic students.
This year it has also signed up the University of Buckingham and the University of Exeter.