ibnlive » India

Dec 11, 2012 at 09:35am IST

Young lawyers help NGOs access free specialised legal help through online portal

New Delhi: A team of young lawyers is trying to make a difference. They are helping NGOs access specialised legal help and that too free of cost. CNN-IBN met up with some of them to find out more about their 'I-Probono' initiative.

29-year-old Swathi Sukumar, an alumnus of Columbia Law School, isn't a regular lawyer. Alongside her private intellectual property law practice, Sukumar provides a platform to lawyers to do 'probono' work by connecting them with non-profit organisations who need legal help.

"I-Probono is an online portal which we started three years ago. There's a lot of probono work that happens in the US and the west but in India, it's still a new concept. We've been working hard at changing mindsets," Sukumar says.

Using her web portal, I-Probono, Sukumar and her team are able to connect NGOs with lawyers who can provide them with credible legal help that otherwise would have been unaffordable. So when Mumbai Mobile creches, an NGO that works with the children of migrant workers, needed help with a land encroachment case, they turned to I-Probono.

Vrushali Naik of Mumbai Mobile Creches says, "We have to deal with all kinds of people - builders, corporates - who threaten us with legal notices. There are issues where we don't know what the legal stand-point is, which is where we need help."

Another initiative that has used I-Probono's help is Udyam Prayas, an NGO that's working at de-constructing government schemes like Ladli and Kishori Shakti Yojna aimed at benefiting underprivileged children. Their aim is to ensure that the children are actually able to avail these schemes.

Lawyers who have registered with this online portal claim I-Probono allows them to bridge the information gap with civil society groups who ordinarily wouldn't have known about their expertise, as the Bar council forbids any form of advertising.

Criminal lawyer Shri Singh says, "I have a hectic work schedule, a lot of time I may want to do some probono work to help someone out, but I can't go looking for clients. I-Probono provides me that kind of space."

It's not easy to get credible legal help at an affordable price, especially when you're a non-profit organisation working on a water tight budget. Not only does I-Probono bridge the gap between those who can provide that kind of help and those who need it, it also helps fulfill a sort of social responsibility.