Trustee talk: 'There's something to do every day'

Emilie Filou talks to Begonia Filgueira, a trustee at the UK Environmental Law Association.

I have been involved with the UK Environmental Law Association, a charity that seeks greater legal protection for the environment, since I started working as an environmental lawyer nine years ago. I have benefited enormously from the association's work in terms of legal updates and networking opportunities.

I was quite active within the organisation and I knew a vacancy on the board was coming up. A number of people encouraged me to go for it, my application was supported by two of the trustees and I was elected in July.

It's an honour to be in a position to give something back to the charity at an organisational level. Right from the start, the board was extremely supportive. My fellow trustees really encouraged me to ask questions, and I felt relaxed about appearing ignorant.

Straight away, the board provided me with an induction with the trustee responsible for promoting good governance at the association. We went through the duties and responsibilities of trustees, and I was given a copy of the charity's constitution and encouraged to ask questions. I was also sent to the NCVO's trustee conference last month, which was useful for networking and getting practical tips. The board has a continuous development programme in place for trustees, so I'll get more training over the course of my four-year term.

I think my legal background helped a little, because I already had an understanding of charity and company law. There is still a lot to learn, however. I don't find it daunting because there is always someone to turn to. We have 20 trustees, all from completely different backgrounds. They include consultants, academics and other lawyers.

The hardest thing is the workload. Being a lawyer, I am used to long hours, and I came to the role with my eyes open. But there is something to do every day: a discussion to have, a recommendation to make, something to organise. We also have council meetings every three months, and they last three or four hours. You have to be prepared to commit the time.

Perhaps because I am new and so enthusiastic, I find it incredibly rewarding. I am working on a lot of exciting projects. Our next big event is a lecture at University College London, at which MC Metha, an eminent Indian environmental lawyer, will speak. I really hope to be of benefit to the association and to further the cause of the environment.

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