Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Side by side

Action for Blind People has forged a link with Lovells, a law firm that provides free legal advice to more than 200 projects each year.

YASMIN WALJEE, PRO BONO MANAGER, LOVELLS

We established a partnership with Action for Blind People a couple of years ago as part of the charity's self-employment programme, which supports entrepreneurs who are blind or severely visually impaired.

Lovells is an international corporate law firm with a pro bono unit, of which I've been manager for eight years. I organise volunteer lawyers from across the firm to provide free legal advice to more than 200 projects a year.

We decided to help Action for Blind People's employment project because that's our business: our lawyers give commercial legal advice on these issues. We have also provided employment law fact sheets in Braille. The work with Action is now having an impact within our own firm - the lawyers and support staff involved have all had visual awareness training.

Barbara has been fantastic - sensitive, aware of the types of things we advise on, a good mediator. Action is a pioneering charity we thought should be introduced to more business people, so last week we hosted a networking evening with Rumpole creator Sir John Mortimer, whose father was blind.

BARBARA MORTON, EMPLOYMENT TEAM MANAGER, ACTION FOR BLIND

People Action Works, our self-employment team, offers support and advice to visually impaired entrepreneurs across England. Two years ago, when Yasmin was looking for a charity to work with, she came across our website and came in to discuss how we could work together. Yasmin is a very committed and empathetic person.

Lovells staff make their time available: they put on entrepreneurs' forums at which people who are self-employed ask about, for example, professional liability insurance.

The company has set up a free legal helpline for our clients, many of whom are disadvantaged and undercapitalised. For example, one of our clients, an aromatherapist, sought advice on European regulations on the use of aromatherapy oils.

We have about 190 clients altogether - about 40 of them live in London and can easily attend the meetings, although everyone can use the helpline.

Lovells is the employment team's first private sector partner. I can't praise the company enough. It goes to such lengths.

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