About:Who do we work with?

UnLtd's Ben Smith talks about his London BaSE experience

HL BaSE is a key component in law firm Hogan Lovells’ two week induction programme, which delivers business skills for their new lawyers. Towards the end of their second week, trainee lawyers have the opportunity to apply their skills practically by helping to tackle real issues faced by social entrepreneurs.

As one of my first jobs as a new Ventures Manager on the Big Venture Challenge, I attended the workshop with one of my new ventures: Kirsty, Founder of The Alternative School (TAS) – a school who transform the lives of young people on the verge of being NEET.

The day began with Hogan Lovells’ trainee lawyers gathering information on TAS; after a break they would return with business solutions. When we entered the room, we were greeted by six nervous faces. After years of studying, a tiring recruitment process and an intense two week induction, the trainees were finally going to get their hands on their first ‘real’ client. Their nervous questioning reminded me of my first days as a management consultant working in the private sector in 2009. As the minutes passed by, you could see their confidence grow; by the time the break came, they were in full swing.

During the interval, Kirsty and I debriefed, eager to discover solutions they may offer. I gathered afterwards that our meeting had been more tranquil than some others. Ollie from Goldfinger Factory – who empower communities through the creative reuse and recycling of wasted materials – is, by his own admission, a slightly more eccentric entrepreneur. He had managed to draw eight diagrams whilst describing what his venture does!

When Kirsty and I re-entered the room, the trainee lawyers were visibly satisfied with their first client meeting; we weren’t disappointed either. All suggestions made were useful and formed the basis for the pro bono legal support Kirsty will have access to as a result of participating in BaSE – invaluable to any new venture.

The trainees evidently enjoyed the experience, one of the 27 participating that day commenting that: “it is great to have the chance to use and improve my legal skills to this end”. Many made reference to the entrepreneurs “infectious enthusiasm and drive”. In fact, a number of the participants asked to continue working with the ventures they met that day as part of the pro bono support the venture would receive.

BaSE had a huge impact on the entrepreneurs too. For many, this was their first legal consultation. There was a universal feeling among the six participating ventures that the event was a success and that having this heavyweight backing gave them confidence and credibility.

I found this incredibly refreshing. Hogan Lovells have realised that everything you can learn about business, can be learnt from social business. I feel that it represented a culture shift; if new lawyers are learning about social businesses at an early stage and it’s already having this impact, imagine the effect it can have on the sector as a whole if this mentality spreads.

I was so taken with this event that I’m organising the next one, which will see the BaSE programme grow to support eight social entrepreneurs from the Big Venture Challenge 2015 cohort. All parties are eagerly awaiting the event.

- Ben Smith


See more at: https://unltd.org.uk/2015/09/01/pro-bono-legal-workshops-offer-reciprocal-value-trainee-lawyers-social-entrepreneurs/