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Lawyers come together for autism parents, creches & 50 more projects as i-Probono grows to 500

Plethora of goods
Plethora of goods

Pro bono network i-Probono has connected 52 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to Indian lawyers for pro bono legal assistance since starting in India in 2011, with a Mumbai advocate last month training Delhi-based parents of autistic children in succession planning.

In March Siddharth Mehta, managing partner of Mumbai law firm Mehta & Padamsey, flew to Delhi to advise a group of 30 to 40 parents gathered by Action for Autism about safeguarding their offsprings’ future, recounted i-Probono India country director Swathi Sukumar.

Mehta had spent nine years at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe in the Silicon Valley, Dorsey & Whitney in London and White & Case in Singapore before returning to India two years ago to run the firm his great-grandfather had set up 101 years ago.

“We dedicate 25 per cent of our time to pro bono and that’s quite integral to what we do,” Mehta explained. “Action for Autism was particularly interesting because of the plight of parents who have autistic kids, or kids with mental disability, which may prevent them form fully managing their affairs - [they] go through issues which most common people can’t imagine.”

The presentation took a total of around 50 to 75 hours to prepare with the assistance of associate Mudit Gupta and intern Ankit Sharma, said Mehta, including researching autism, how the law deals with it and devising a “fairly novel structure”. They did not just have to “navigate testamentary issues”, he said, but also created a way of setting up organisations to act as guardians.

This structure may now be used by Action for Autism in future to become guardians of autistic children without parents. The NGO may also further expand its portfolio of services, which the law firm would oversee on the legal front.

Good times

Sukumar said that other projects have included work for UnLtd India - a “launchpad for social entrepreneurs” – which was assisted by Khaitan & Co on tax laws, while lawyers from Infosys helped The Better India – a website about the social and charitable sector – on intellectual property (IP) and information technology (IT) issues.

A human rights NGO was advised by a Mumbai lawyer of a top-tier national law firm about giving evidence by video conference in proceedings, while Platinum Partners Delhi has an ongoing arrangement with Mumbai Mobile Creches to handle some of its commercial and contracts work.

Another project involved J Sagar Associates (JSA) Bangalore partner Gerald Manoharan cooperating with a law student from NLU Delhi.

“What's exciting is the kinds of lawyers we've engaged and the kinds of causes of non-profits that are represented [and that we’ve been] able to create relationships across the legal fraternity,” commented Sukumar, who runs her own chambers in Delhi when not busy on i-Probono around two days per week.

A total of 500 lawyers were now enrolled on the i-Probono site, said Sukumar. “About a dozen law firms in India are active but tons of independent lawyers who are not in a law firm set-up [are helping].”

Are you working on any pro-bono projects? Please share your experience with us at

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