Bowman Gilfillan has promised to extend its small businesses pro bono project, with an eye of launching in Cape Town after successfully rolling out the project in Johannesburg.
The pan African law firm, Bowman Gilfillan, hosted an event in Soweto this week to highlight its new flagship pro bono project, Ishishini Lethu (“our business”), which renders legal services to small businesses and start-up enterprises.
The firm said its signature pro bono project aims at empowering the previously disadvantaged and is focused on assisting township businesses. To deliver on this, Bowman Gilfillan said it has forged partnerships with non-profit organisations that are well placed to assist in referring clients in need of legal services. The firm’s partner in the delivery of free legal services is ProBono.org
According to Fatima Laher, Pro Bono Manager at Bowman Gilfillan: “This project makes it possible for our commercial lawyers to engage in worthy projects in line with their areas of expertise, helping them to become better lawyers while making a meaningful contribution to the community within which our firm operates.
“We have partnered with Enablis, which offers a unique entrepreneur development model that empowers and supports small business. We also work with Business Information Centre of South Africa (BICSA), which provides Soweto’s entrepreneurs with business development support and customised solutions.”
Another key partner is the South African Business Resource Institute (SABRI), which has a mandate to facilitate access to business resources for small and medium enterprises in order to contribute to their growth, sustainability, and ultimately job creation.
Bowman Gilfillan said it has long used clinics to expose the maximum number of its lawyers to pro bono work, and to ensure that they can access work that appeals to their areas of interest. Businesses that quality for assistance benefit from consultations at the clinic where advice is provided. With more complex issues, work is taken back to the office before clients are assisted further.
Bowman Gilfillan’s small business clinic began as a pilot project in September last year. Since then, 26 clients have been assisted with businesses ranging from events coordinators and butcheries, to small manufacturers and gardening services. Legal matters attended to included drafting partnership agreements and contracts, and the registration of businesses.
“Nineteen of our lawyers have participated in the project, contributing 469.6 hours to the Enablis clinic over the past 18 months. An additional 315.6 hours have been contributed since the commencement of our own project, Ishishini Lethu. All clinics are serviced by a senior lawyer, an associate and a candidate attorney,” said Laher.
The firm said with the Johannesburg project now up and running, Bowman Gilfillan’s intention is to implement a similar project for its Cape Town office in September this year.
The Soweto event was intended to promote Bowman Gilfillan’s services to the small business community firsthand, to provide information, and to run a clinic designed to empower entrepreneurs.
“This project creates a valuable support system through which small businesses can establish a competitive foothold in the markets in which they operate, and contribute to the process of job creation that is an indispensable part of the solution to South Africa’s socio-economic challenges,” said Laher.