In 2020, Sidley’s London office launched a partnership with Kids in Need of Defense UK (KIND UK) to provide advice and support to children and their families with uncertain or undocumented immigration status. Working closely with the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, Sidley’s lawyers help children apply for British citizenship in order to be granted their full legal rights.
Sidley has a longstanding tradition of providing pro bono legal services and dedicated more than 169,000 hours firmwide to a variety of pro bono cases in 2020, including many immigration and asylum matters.
Of the program launch, Jade Williams-Adedeji, a partner in Sidley’s London office who is leading the project with KIND UK, shared: “We are delighted to have partnered with KIND UK in the provision of pro bono advice to children in their applications for British citizenship. There are thousands of undocumented children living in the UK, many of whom know no other country as their home. We have a number of active cases already and we are starting to make a difference to the future of the children and their families.”
Pro Bono Counsel Chloe O’Brien echoed Williams-Adedeji, adding: “We are very committed to giving back to the communities in which we operate and to using our legal skills to provide services to those who need it most. The KIND UK programme provides vital assistance to children and their families, and it is a privilege to be involved.”
KIND UK recently interviewed Williams-Adedeji about Sidley’s involvement with the initiative. Read more from her conversation with Ann Cooper from KIND UK below.
Why did Sidley want to get involved with the KIND UK programme?
JWA: Our London office contributes to a variety of pro bono initiatives and was looking for a project that was dedicated to assisting children. The KIND UK programme was one which our lawyers across all practice areas could volunteer for and one which we identified we could commence and conduct remotely.
Why does KIND UK partner with law firms?
AC: We work with law firms because they have great resources; they are keen to use their expertise and knowledge to do pro bono work and find our end-to-end case work to be a great opportunity to gain new legal skills while helping others in need; they are enthusiastic and supportive; and they can help us increase awareness. KIND UK is such a worthwhile legal cause. We need so many attorneys that are willing to put in high-quality work (rather than quick-fidget work that places them in greater trouble) so it is a perfect match — city firms fighting for children’s rights!
How have you set up the programme within your firm? Are you planning to expand the programme?
JWA: The programme has been set up using a buddy group system. We divided the volunteers into four groups, with a mixture of seniorities in each, together with a mix of practice areas. Each buddy group has a partner supervisor, and we have a central administration and tracking system. Each group currently has one case. Once the formal applications have been submitted for each case, the number of buddy groups will increase, and we will spread out those with experience and introduce new volunteers to buddy groups. This will enable us to take on more cases, whilst maintaining the buddy group system.
Have you seen any benefits to the programme being run remotely (both for clients and for Sidley)?
JWA: We have only ever run this programme remotely and whilst we would very much welcome being able to meet our clients in person, conducting the sessions remotely has meant that the meetings have not needed to involve clients incurring the time and expense travelling to London from Manchester. The interviews we carry out to ask the essential background information can be conducted in familiar and comfortable surroundings for the parents and the children (where they are old enough to attend the meetings). For our lawyers, the remote setup enables a seamless transition from direct client-facing meetings to the resulting workstreams, such as compiling evidence for the application and preparing the application itself. Starting a programme like this remotely enabled us to partner with a legal centre outside of London, thereby providing support and advice to an area in immediate need of pro bono support.
Have you encountered any challenges with the programme being run remotely?
JWA: Not at all; we think it has been hugely beneficial for our lawyers and the clients to have a remote clinic.
AC: The silver linings of lockdown are that some of the clients found it very difficult to get to the law firms. Even if they lived in London, it usually took an hour, cost money, and they felt rushed. They often didn’t have the money for the trips or the time to spare (most of it in travel) to take away from work or caring for their children. We are also able to reach more children outside of London that we couldn’t reach before because most of the firms were based in London.
Our clients feel less intimidated at home rather than going to a fancy law firm. While I’m sure they were impressed and dazzled and grateful for the professionalism, they may not feel they have the right clothes or confidence to be in that setting. They feel more comfortable and confident sharing their stories in the comfort and privacy of their own home. They also get a peek inside their attorney’s home and get to know them on a more familiar basis, which can help build trust. Lastly, it is very efficient for time management for both the client and the pro bono attorneys working on the case. There was so much time lost on travel, waiting for meetings to start, and rushing to the next. Remote work really helps with that!