Pro bono and Social Responsibility in Mexico
The Mexican legal community (professional lawyers’ associations, Schools of Law, law firms, independent professionals, and civil society organisations) must understand that it should implement and institutionalise a culture of pro bono work as a key part of its social responsibility policy. Acknowledging the need to provide pro bono work in an institutionalised and organised manner is something new and emerging among Mexican lawyers. No doubt, other Latin American countries, mainly as a result of the influence of the United States, adopted the programmes and institutions created there and successfully adapted them to their local needs and culture.
Although more dialogue and transparency among the various agents in the Mexican legal community are required, several of them (such as BMA, ANADE, and INCAM) have launched the actions needed to ensure that legal professionals fulfil our social responsibility obligations both individually and as a group. This includes a shared effort to re-establish mandatory membership in a professional association in Mexico, but in the short term, it should involve an exercise in internal reflection for every member of the community, to acknowledge that failures in the rule of law damage the reputation of every legal professional and that programmes should be established to protect the rule of law and to ensure that the entire population has equal access to justice.
The lawyers’ talent and training are currently seen as an added value to assist clients in performing their activities efficiently and to achieve their goals regarding their stakeholders
The efforts of the Fundación BMA and Fundación Appleseed Mexico have managed to disseminate the notion of pro bono work among different types of professionals –criminal lawyers, specialists in family law, and law firms specialising in commercial and transactional law (corporate lawyers)– as well as to support the community to do more pro bono work. They have both contributed to bridge the gap of pro bono clearinghouses for lawyers in Mexico. Greater interaction between lawyers and these clearinghouses has made their users realise the need to provide support through time and resources, as in other countries.
The lawyers’ talent and training are currently seen as an added value to assist clients in performing their activities efficiently and to achieve their goals regarding their stakeholders. This is a fact both for civil society organisations and for any other client. After all, the competition to attract capital and accomplish goals is as fierce for a trade company as it is for a civil organisation. Any law firm’s current and potential clients are increasingly looking into their providers’ pro bono work. Thus, supported by a clearinghouse and with constant influence from their clients, lawyers have learnt that their knowledge can be successfully applied to contribute to people’s rights and to ensure the work of civil society non-profit organisations.
We must all contribute to achieve a fairer Mexico and greater involvement of private companies in philanthropic and social responsibility initiatives. It is obvious that more active and disinterested participation from all lawyers, within their respective specialities, is required to (i) protect the rights of their most vulnerable clients, (ii) preserve the rule of law, and (iii) promote non-profit activities to benefit the community.
With these goals in mind, Creel has implemented its Pro Bono Programme, in the belief that this is a duty of every lawyer. We seek to ensure that all our lawyers are citizens who are committed to their society. We firmly believe that employees are the ones who benefit the most from fulfilling their social responsibility obligations, not only as professionals but also as community members. It is crucial for our staff to work on pro bono cases as hard and with the same commitment as on fee-paying clients’ cases. Hence the criteria of our assessment committee establish that the minimum and maximum parameters for annual individual hours employed, invoiced, and validated by the partner in charge of a pro bono case will be accredited for compliance with this assessment criterion during each period.
We acknowledge that even though Creel has advanced in our Pro Bono Programme, there is still much left to do. Thus, some of our partners take active part in civil and academic institutions and associations aimed at promoting and developing pro bono work, social responsibility, and the rule of law.
Within the field of social responsibility and activities of high social impact, making a difference does not need to involve many, but rather a handful of lawyers determined to contribute their time and resources
In Mexico, I have met with several lawyers with various profiles who are individually expanding their practices to pro bono work in order to fulfil their social responsibility obligations towards all their stakeholders in order to build a fairer country. Within the field of social responsibility and activities of high social impact, making a difference does not need to involve many, but rather a handful of lawyers determined to contribute their time and resources to create institutional programmes that contribute to the development of pro bono work.
What remains to be done is to work towards that shared goal: establishing institutions that provide Mexican lawyers with the support to connect them to each other and to provide them with the tools to solve local problems identified in their professional practice. In this way, lawyers, within their respective specialities, will be encouraged to contribute to high social impact causes such as access to justice and the rule of law. The challenge is great yet achievable.