legal advice

How small NGOs can get easy access to legal advice

Accessing legal advice for smaller NGOs can be both expensive and labour intensive, even for the seemingly smallest of issues such as trademark disputes, data protection advice or grant contracts.

Advocates for International Development (A4ID) is a global charity that works in partnership with the world’s leading law firms, barristers and in-house corporate counsel to provide access to free legal advice and assistance for NGOs in the international development sector.

A4ID was founded in 2006 after a group of lawyers were brought together by Oxfam and sought to provide pro bono legal support to marginalised communities impacted by the Asian Tsunami in 2004.

The aim is to bring the voice of the legal community, to inspire and enable lawyers to join the global fight against poverty, and to ensure that legal support is available for anyone engaged in that fight. Since its establishment, A4ID has helped to grow the legal pro bono sector across the globe, though at present it is focusing on Africa and South Asia.

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A4ID’s international pro bono broker service brings their Legal Partners together with their Development Partners who require their particular legal expertise in over 120 jurisdictions. The Legal Partners carry out due diligence on all organisations requesting legal assistance to confirm their projects are tenable, valuable, and finite.

To access A4ID’s service organisations need to become a Development Partner. A4ID’s Development Partners currently include over 930 development organisations, from large international NGOs, national and multinational agencies, to developing country governments, small civil society groups, social enterprises, law societies and bar associations.

To become a Development Partner, you should be a charity, NGO, or a social enterprise, working towards advancing at least one of the SDGs. The communities you work with should be in a low- to middle-income country except: refugees, climate and renewable energy, or racial justice.

Helping ChildHope extend its girls education programme in Ethiopia

A4ID’s Legal Partner Allen & Overy worked with ChildHope to ensure continued access to education for Ethiopian girls. ChildHope is a charity established in response to the growth in the numbers of street children around the world. In 2017, ChildHope was successful in its application to extend a DFID (now FCDO) funded programme in Ethiopia. The funding was for its Girls’ Education Challenge ‘Step Change’ programme which aimed to enable girls to enrol, stay and thrive in school.

Child Hope approached A4ID because they found the grant documentation from DFID to be ambiguous and uncertain, particularly because the grant was set to be an extension and second phase of a previous programme and it looked as though there would be a gap between the grants and it wasn’t clear whether they would receive funding to cover the gap.

The lawyers were able to clarify with DFID that the grant documentation was subject to continued negotiations and amendments, and it would be possible to renegotiate some of the terms after the documents had been signed.

Supporting Health Brooks International to successfully merge with Practical Action Publishing

A4ID’s Legal Partner Dechert was there to advise small NGO, Health Books International (HBI) when it was facing closure. HBI approached A4ID because they were facing financial difficulties after losing a key donor.

Their main concern was that they had bought a large supply of health books and they had developed a website with a lot of useful information, so they wanted advice on what their options were.

Dechert lawyers took the project on, and they gave Health Book advice about closure, but also suggested they explore the option of merging with another charity doing similar work and potentially handing over their stock and website.

After having an initial conversation with Practical Action Publishing, Dechert helped HBI negotiate and supported them through the entire merger process over the course of several months.

The organisations website still exists and is managed by Practical Action.

For those who couldn’t make the live meeting, you can watch it here.

About Bond’s Small NGO Group: The Small NGO Group currently has 229 members, about half of Bond’s total membership. ‘Small’ in the context of this group is broadly defined as having an income less than £2million and recognises that small NGOs have particular needs as they often operate on limited budgets with minimal resources.

The Small NGO Group supports members through learning and information sharing events and webinars, providing opportunities to share best practice, learn more about focussed topics, and to discuss challenges, from the perspective of a small organisation. Occasionally we work with other networks, such as the Small International Development Charities Network, adding our voice to raise the profile of small NGOs and all that they do. If you are interested in getting involved in the working group, we’d love to hear from you – please do get in touch.


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