What does Pro Bono and Citizenship mean at Herbert Smith Freehills?

Pro Bono and Citizenship allows people at HSF to use their legal and non-legal talents to support causes and clients free of charge. This work is inspired by our professional responsibility, desire for social impact, sense of justice and desire to be a responsible business. Clients can be anyone from international charities to emerging social enterprises or individuals in need.

Our dedicated Pro Bono and Citizenship team identify and realise opportunities where our talented people can make a lasting difference to different causes around the world.

Inspiring you to inspire us

Our work is hugely varied in both the issues we tackle and how we address them. This site is here to give you some inspiration for your entry by showing you the broad range of work we already do. We’re hoping our work will inspire your best and brightest ideas in how to use our skills in new ways to make a real difference in the world. Share your idea with us for the chance to present it to our team and be chosen for the three-week internship.



BEAM is a social impact business that supports the crowdfunding of employment training for homeless people. HSF Impact, our market-leading investment practice, helped get the idea off the ground and our people continue to provide the expertise needed to make it a success. Watch Josh’s interview to understand more.

Take away

This is an example of HSF’s involvement in an emerging social enterprise.

Are there any social enterprises you know that could benefit from this kind of support?

Karam Jardaneh


Centrepoint is a charity that supports around 10,000 young people annually who are homeless or at risk of becoming so. Through volunteer lawyers, the Connect programme provides free confidential advice to empower these young people. In the past this has included helping with employment disputes (for example, an employer who refuses to pay wages which are owed) and recovering housing benefits (for example where a local council refuses to pay an entitlement).

HSF lawyers are briefed in advance then discuss the legal issues with their client, advising them on their options. Lawyers will assist with writing letters or providing follow-up guidance in some circumstances.

Karam Jardaneh
Take away

Our lawyers can offer one-to-one support to a large amount of people when we focus on a specific area of the law. They use video conferencing to do this remotely so don’t need to meet clients in person.

Aside from young homeless people, is there another group or cause that you think could benefit from this?



Take away

Here HSF helped a programme that had a clear complex legal issue to solve.

Could you think of a solution to a problem where legal complexities have delayed or affected its impact?



Climate change demands more international collaboration than ever before. But creating sustainable action means navigating some of the most complex multi-lateral law in the world. Industrialised nations can afford huge teams of dedicated, specialist lawyers giving them an advantage over less developed countries that can’t afford the same, yet are often most at threat from climate change.

The Legal Response Initiative is a free, rapid-response legal service that levels the playing field. HSF trainees and associates prepare advice and briefing papers or research relevant areas of law and implementation following requests from nations involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change discussions who cannot access quality legal advice at an affordable cost. The work is then made available to all such nations directly and via an online database.

Take away

HSF’s work here contributes to a service where our expertise can clarify complex legal processes to help create sustainable impact at an international level.

Are there any other environmental issues where you think legal expertise could help to make an impact?

Honey Sanusi
Senior Citizenship Executive
Improving opportunities


HSF are a founding member of PRIME, a collective law firm initiative to improve social mobility in the industry. Each year, we offer 25 placements to talented, ambitious young people from backgrounds that are under-represented in the profession. We combine sessions on soft skills like presenting and networking with shadowing, client visits and a general insight into working at HSF. Watch Honey’s interview to understand its impact.

Honey Sanusi
Senior Corporate Responsibility Executive
Take away

HSF were a founding member of a cross-industry programme to tackle a cross-industry issue.

Could you think of anything where we could collaborate with other organisations to the benefit of a cause?

International development

Fair deal
sierra leone

HSF established Fair Deal Sierra Leone in 2010 to help the country’s government respond to increasing amounts of foreign investment. We treat the government like one of our key global clients and have provided extensive legal advice that focuses on recovery, growth and sustainable development. A key theme is helping manage incoming foreign investment to ensure the country is in the best position to turn its natural wealth into a benefit for its people. Watch our interview with Rebecca to understand part of how we do that.

You can find out more here about our work but these are just some of the interesting things we’ve worked on with them:

  • Represented them in negotiations for the expansion of a hydro-electric facility
  • Standardised internal systems for reviewing, drafting and negotiating contracts with private companies
  • Created a 30-strong team overnight to help negotiate with companies withdrawing services due to Ebola
  • Advised on and helped draft national legislation and organised a national summit to discuss legal reform
  • Helped with the legal aspects of a new water and electricity sector regulator
  • Identified priorities for training and capacity building in the country’s legal teams
  • Published the Sierra Leone Investor’s Guide to tackle negative perceptions after the Ebola crisis

Take away

Here HSF have used our expertise to help redress an imbalance that existed between highly experienced private companies and a recovering nation.

Could you think of a case where any or all of the services above would benefit a cause or initiative?

Rebecca Perlman
Associate, Pro Bono
Local community


Language Liaison is one of HSF’s longest running Pro Bono and Citizenship programmes. We help GCSE and A-Level students from our local borough, Tower Hamlets, to improve their language skills and introduce them to that country’s culture. HSF volunteers act as long-standing mentors; planning sessions with students based on topics they want to work on, with their enjoyment a priority. A key part of the initiative is volunteers helping students really understand different cultures so sessions could focus on anything from French television to Spanish pop music.

HSF’s international culture and the large number of French and Spanish speakers at the firm means the programme is a great way of using of our team’s non-legal skills to help the local community. Tower Hamlets has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the UK so these focussed sessions are invaluable for young residents.

Take away

This is a great example of HSF using our non-legal skills to help the local community.

Could you think of another community or cause that could benefit from our people’s non-legal skills?


How can HSF help a cause that you care about?


So now you’ve seen some of the work we do, it’s time to start coming up with your own ideas. We want you to answer the following question:

How can HSF help a cause that you care about?

You should think about some of the work you’ve just seen and how it could apply to a cause you care about. We want to know why you think your chosen cause is important and what HSF could do to make a difference. Take inspiration from our other work or completely invent a new way we can use our skills. Whatever you suggest, we’re looking for innovative, creative ideas that are well expressed and a genuine passion for the cause you’re suggesting all in under 400 words.


We’ll shortlist the entries and the successful applicants will be invited to talk through their ideas in a 10-15 minute presentation at our London offices. To help you prepare, you’ll have the option to talk through your idea with an experienced member of our Pro Bono and Citizenship team. They will coach you, help structure your presentation and let you know the relevant HSF capabilities that will make your presentation even better.

We’ll determine and announce the winner on the same day.


Good luck!