On the 13 October 2020, MLRC were delighted to take part in the launch of the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) Impact Report for the past 10 years. The report ‘Challenging Injustice, Championing Change’ was launched at an online event in which over 50 NGOs were in attendance to learn more about how to tackle pressing social issues and the impact pro bono legal services.
The event also celebrated 10 years of PILA, set up by FLAC in 2009 to promote public interest law to help those who are marginalised and disadvantaged. Over this time, PILA has helped organise pro bono legal assistance for those with concerns about housing and homelessness, migration and disability rights. The organisation has brought to together 150 social justice organisations, 40 law firms, 350 barristers along with many others to advance public interest law over the past 10 years.
One of the main ways in which PILA aims to expand the reach of public interest law is through promoting a culture of pro bono work across the legal community. This is exemplified in its highly successful Pro Bono Referral Scheme, under which 310 NGOs have received legal support through 800 legal advice and litigation matters and 45 law reform working groups.
This kind of support was discussed in the context of housing rights at the event by MLRC, who described the pro bono collaboration with A&L Goodbody and Focus Ireland, an Impact Project facilitated by PILA. This partnership, responding to the escalation in the housing crisis, involves solicitors from A&L Goodbody giving legal advice at outreach clinics based at Focus Ireland. MLRC provided initial and then ongoing training and legal support on housing law matters that arise at the clinics. The project has continued remotely in the context of the covid-19 pandemic. MLRC spoke at the event about the impact of this project as an example of the effectiveness of pro bono work in assisting those with urgent yet unmet legal needs.
Other probono work was discussed in length at the event where NGOs, such as MRCI and the Children’s Right Alliance, described the importance of the work of PILA and the pro bono support offered in bringing about legislative change as well as accessing legal supports and services for vulnerable groups in society.
The webinar allowed a number of NGOs, including MLRC, to share and discuss their insights about how public interest law can act as a tool to enact positive change in the community. One of the main findings of the report was that pro bono aid has increased over the past 10 years, something to keep in mind as MLRC look to engage in new projects to enhance housing rights and provide legal advice in the future.