“At Bowman Gilfillan we believe that by doing pro bono work, it gives us an opportunity to portray our own humanity and witness it".
Our firm is fully committed to do pro bono work. We have developed our pro bono policy and guidelines in terms of which every lawyer within our firm is encouraged to do fifty hours of pro bono work for the year. Our firm has also appointed a pro bono manager to coordinate the firm’s pro bono work and to assist with ensuring that the most deserving in our society benefits from our pro bono programme.
For the financial year ending February 2013 Bowman Gilfillan lawyers clocked 7890.55 pro bono hours across its Johannesburg and Cape Town offices. The total value of our services for the year was R13 667 578,00. We work towards building strong stakeholder relationships with the non-profit sector in order to source deserving pro bono work. We have also formed partnerships with different organisations in order entrench and enhance our pro bono work.
We deliver our pro bono services through the various pro bono clinics we service and which we may have established. Matters are also referred to us from outside. Applicants for pro bono assistance are required to complete an intake form after which the matter is assessed for pro bono assistance.
We also host seminars and workshops relating to pro bono work.
“The law is more than a simple tool or trade: it is the glue that binds society. A proactive commitment in one form or another, to make sure everyone is able to take their place in society.” - Patrick Torsney.
“We as lawyers at Bowman Gilfillan hope to take our place in society with the pro bono work we do and our commitment to pro bono work.”
|Business Information Centre of South Africa (BICSA)|
|South African Society of Labour Law (SASLAW)|
|The Master's office|
Tsiba, a remarkable not-for-profit tertiary education institution, is a focal point of the pro bono contributions of Bowman Gilfillan in Cape Town.
Tsiba offers a four year Bachelor of Business Administration degree to learners from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Since its establishment in 2004, it has provided 1,000 full tuition scholarships and achieved a pass rate of 85%. Most encouragingly, 85% of learners are employed or pursuing post-graduate studies after completing their degree. Tsiba is almost entirely reliant on funding and committed volunteers to function.
Since 2011, Bowman Gilfillan has contributed many hours in lecturing and tutoring Business Law at Tsiba, in the process helping learners to achieve Tsiba’s motto of “igniting opportunity”.
The Business Law course is almost invariably the learners’ first exposure to formal legal training. The course provides an introduction to the legal system, the court structure, the constitution and the general rules and principles of commercial law. The learners obtain a basic grounding in the law of contract, intellectual property, competition, consumer and property. The lectures provide the theoretical framework, while the tutorials provide an opportunity to apply the law to practical problem questions.
A number of the firm’s lawyers have dedicated considerable time and effort to the Business Law course.
We are proud to be part of this wonderful example of what civil society, and committed learners, can achieve
ORBIS International (“Orbis”) is a non-profit humanitarian organization that works in developing countries to save sight worldwide. Orbis prevents and treats blindness through hands-on training, public health education, improved access to quality eye care, and partnerships with local health care organizations. Orbis works in some of the world’s most under-served areas to deliver sight by strengthening local eye care institutions, training staff, introducing ophthalmic technology, advocating for supportive policies and increasing public awareness about eye health. Since 1982, Orbis has carried out programs in 90 countries, enhanced the skills of more than 300,000 eye care professionals and provided treatment to more than 18.8 million blind and visually impaired people.
BG assisted Orbis in establishing a presence in South Africa by establishing a non-profit company in terms of the Companies Act – “Orbis Africa”. Orbis Africa has an advocacy programme for Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of which Orbis Africa advocates the mainstreaming of eye health onto the public health and development agendas of Sub-Saharan African countries, with a particular focus on childhood blindness. In partnership with the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and other institutes, Orbis Africa is leading the development of sub-speciality training in Paediatric Ophthalmology in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A Comprehensive Paediatric Eye Health programme is currently running in Kwa-Zulu Natal, which addresses the delivery of paediatric eye health from primary through to tertiary level. The specialised unit of care has already been set up at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban. A research project to determine the quality of paediatric cataract surgery has been instituted at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban. Since 1982, the Flying Eye Hospital has been a focal point for Orbis Africa’s training and advocacy efforts. During tailored programmes lasting 2-3 weeks, eye care professionals from developing countries work side-by-side with the Orbis Africa medical team and expert volunteer faculty to perform surgery on participants on the local community, learn new skills and enhance their capacity to save sight. In addition, the Flying Eye Hospital is a powerful public awareness tool which reaches millions of people through in-country media and health messaging – empowering communities to take responsibility for their own eye health. Through its programmes, Orbis Africa is able to reach thousands of under-served poor and needy individuals throughout the world, and in so doing, to work to build local country partners’ abilities to provide sustainable quality eye care services.
BG assisted Orbis in preparing all legal and regulatory agreements and documents necessary for setting up a non-profit company in South Africa in terms of the Companies Act. We assisted it acquiring tax exemption status, therefore qualifying as a public benefit organization in terms of the Income Tax Act. Where necessary, BG would regularly provide ad-hoc assistance in relation to specific legal queries pertaining to Orbis’ day to day affairs.
Through our involvement with the pro bono SASLAW office, BG assisted 3 employees, on a pro bono basis, who had resigned from their employment following extensive abuse from their employer, primarily in the form of racial abuse, which included the following:
In finding that the employees’ resignations amounted to constructive dismissals by the employer, the Labour Court this morning handed down judgment wherein it stated that the “extent of the abuse is reminiscent of an era of white supremacy whose traces should long have vanished”. The Court accordingly held that the employees’ dismissals were automatically unfair, and awarded each of the employees, who are all still unemployed, the full amount of compensation available to them under the circumstances, being 24 months’ remuneration (an amount of R672 000 between the three).’
In light of South Africa’s rape culture, which has recently been condemned by increased rape awareness campaigns, we thought it necessary to take a good look at the way in which gender-based violence in general is currently being approached. The known statistics of the crippling situation is painted at more than 50% of Gauteng’s women having experienced gender-based violence with more than 75% of Gauteng’s men as its perpetrators. Gender-based violence has reached intolerable proportions in South Africa, partly because this type of violence is committed without useful recourse by victims. One of the most unacceptable dangers faced by such victims is their re-victimisation, caused by a lack of access to services which secure their safety and well-being while they speak out of their challenges.
Over the years, Bowman Gilfillan has remained committed to assisting disadvantaged communities by providing pro bono legal assistance to organisations who are identified as having the capabilities required to make a substantial difference in promoting good quality of life and providing to the less fortunate who are in dire need of intervention.
One such organisation is LvA (Legal Centre for Gender Based Violence Association, trading as Lawyers Against Abuse), a voluntary association set up as a non-profit entity, with a specific purpose in addressing the needs of the South African environment, to provide urgent and direct legal services to victims and survivors of acts of domestic violence, homophobic crimes, sexual assault and other forms of physical and non-physical violence and abuse relating to the gender of the victim. One of the main objects of this association is to collaborate effectively with other organisations, government departments and service providers which provide complementary services and training in support of the underlying spirit of the objects of LvA.
LvA unites a group of specialised lawyers with psychologists, who collectively work towards recognising and combating the trauma of abused persons. Alongside provision of core services involving direct assistance to the victims on a case by case basis, LvA also monitors and evaluates implementation of the relevant laws and engages in research, social work, psycho-education and counselling.
Committed projects which are currently underway under the initiative of LvA include protecting school learners from sexual violence, providing learners who have suffered from sexual violence in the learning environment with access to legal solutions, engaging with enforcement bodies to avoid passivity and ensure that action is taken in providing victims with access to justice without bribery and corruption and using legal avenues in offering innovative solutions against harassment and stalking.
In support of this, LvA is involved in the production of a handbook which is targeted mainly at school learners, to explain the manner in which the legal system was designed to help victims of sexual violence, why it was designed to perform those functions and what treatment to expect from the system. The idea behind this initiative is to begin nurturing self-empowerment in victims, in order to try and mitigate the effects of re-traumatisation which is often the result of seeking justice through the legal system.
Bowman Gilfillan assisted LvA with being set up as a voluntary association in South Africa and acquiring “public benefit organisation” status in terms of the Income Tax Act, allowing it to enjoy tax exemption. We have also provided and continue to provide corporate, tax, regulatory and employment services to several companies being set up in South Africa as non-profit companies under the Companies Act, including the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices, Amnesty International and One Laptop Per Child.
Recognising the value in promoting access to rights of the disadvantaged, Bowman Gilfillan remains committed to providing support which is needed by organisations like LvA. Amidst closing public and private business deals and servicing large multinationals from jurisdictions across the globe, we place emphasis on active participation in the carrying out of pro bono tasks by each of our attorneys.
SA Scout Foundation is being assisted by our specialised pension law team in a matter relating to retired and senior employees of the Scout Association who are unable to access their benefits due to the fact that the fund deregistered.
The reporting and administration of deceased estates in previously disadvantaged rural communities is a complex and neglected matter. Women and the elderly are particularly vulnerable as their access to legal support and knowledge to deal with such matters, is limited.
By appealing to trust companies and legal practitioners to provide probono legal services, the Master of the High Court has made the decision to provide legal support and knowledge to these communities by hosting community meetings to educate the people about what process should be followed in reporting and administering s18(3) estates as well explaining how executing a will resolves common concerns which arise as a result of death such as effecting the transfer of fixed property and personal use assets to beneficiaries.
Against this background and following an invitation from the Master, BG Cape Town along with BOE Trust, Robin Hey & Associates and Proactive Executors each sent a suitably qualified representative to The Master’s Community Wills Day at the Ashton Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday 6 December where the temperature was 40 degrees.
The proceedings started at 10am when Jones (Assistant Master) addressed a group of approximately 50 community members about the importance of drawing up a correctly executed Will in order to ensure the smooth administration of their estates and prevent conflict between family members.
A procession line was set up which saw community members begin in one office by privately discussing their requirements and concerns with either a BG or Proactive Executors representative. After giving advice, instructions were taken using a BOE Trust Will application form. Thereafter the testator/trix was asked to wait in the courtroom whilst the will was drafted by BOE Trust in a second office, using the instructions from their own form. The drafted will was then emailed to Ms Jones’ laptop in the courtroom and printed. Ms Jones asked the person(s) concerned to approach the front of the courtroom to check and sign their will. The signed Will was then handed to the person concerned for their safe keeping.The proceedings were completed by 3pm.
Common concerns were the correct succession of assets to the primarily major beneficiaries. The provisions of the Wills were generally simple and straightforward with few complexities. Elderly women made up the majority of the community members in attendance and all were in good spirits with wonderful heartwarming stories they happily shared of a life well lived in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Both the community and the Master’s office were incredibly grateful to BG for our attendance. The community members benefitted as they received a correctly drafted and executed will and were also able to freely discuss their concerns around the administration of an estate with the Master of The High Court, and her team.
Over the last two years, Bowman Gilfillan has provided general corporate and employment advice to FoodBank South Africa NPC. Foodbank procures food and other groceries, largely as donations from food manufacturers, retailers and government agencies. The food is then stored, sorted and distributed to social service organisations, which in turn distribute the food to destitute people in South Africa.
We have assisted by reviewing a number of service level agreements between FoodBank and various companies or governmental bodies regarding the implementation of programmes aimed at providing food security to local communities. We have also advised FoodBank in relation to sponsorship and donation arrangements, and have assisted them with ad hoc employment queries.
Recently we advised FoodBank in relation to the restructuring of its operations on a national basis, and are currently exploring with them the possibility of setting up a black-owned enterprise to deliver to transport services, with a view to its qualifying for enterprise development purposes.