Anderson Strathern is delighted to become a new partner of the SCVO legal service which offers free legal advice to SCVO members. I am personally thrilled that our firm has committed to providing this level of support for Scotland’s third sector. I chose to specialise in advising charities and voluntary organisations when I qualified in 2006 (gosh, how time flies….) and have previously supported SCVO members via the Service. I have seen first-hand the benefit that having access to this specialist advice can bring.

Now more than ever, against the backdrop of the pandemic, third sector organisations are grappling with challenging issues, be that in relation to bidding for public sector funding contracts or services agreements, trying to renegotiate leases with increasing numbers of employees working from home, governance gripes etc. Having access to a couple of hours’ worth of free legal advice can be significant – a small time input from us solicitors can make a real difference to third sector organisations with very tight budgets. And sometimes all you need is reassurance that you are proceeding in the right direction.

I have often had charities contact me directly asking for small-scale advice and my first response is to ask whether they are members of SCVO. Often the advice that they are looking for can be provided in less than two hours and this is a valuable way for us to support charities without incurring fees which can be significant to those operating within very tight margins. 

It is also massively helpful for me, as a charity law practitioner, to provide advice via the Pro Bono Service. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is quoted as having told law students, “if you’re going to be a lawyer and just practice your profession, you have a skill—very much like a plumber.  But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself, something that makes life…better for people less fortunate”.  And this, to me, is what it means to be a lawyer. I was inspired to take this route in life by Harper Lee’s depiction of Atticus Finch and was fortunate enough to be trained (from day one of my traineeship) by a partner who chose to use his very extensive skills as a corporate lawyer in working solely with public and third sector organisations. Giving guidance via the pro Bono Service enables me to help those charities who can most benefit from my advice, those who are helping marginalised groups and/or causes where every penny counts.

The legal service also also enables us to keep abreast of the key issues affecting the sector in Scotland thereby helping us to do our jobs better.

We are so looking forward to working with SCVO and its members. As one of Scotland’s leading third sector specialists, we know we can help make a difference. We’re also hosting our free Annual Charities Conference on 7 October where we will look at how Scotland’s charities can best respond to the changing landscape and how a commercial mind-set and sound governance can support a positive future. It would be great to see you there.