Why pro bono work is key for business
Having worked in the criminal justice system for my whole adult life, I knew that it lets people down, leaving them very vulnerable, especially if they have no previous experience of the system and don’t know anyone who works in it. Counterintuitively, in my experience, being innocent increases this risk, as the accused tend to trust the system more in such cases. Unfortunately, Miscarriages of Justice do occur; so, when I founded Lost Boys Detective Agency, I wanted to use my skills and network to assist the mistreated people who often have nowhere else to turn.
My vision for the business was that we would work on some of the most famous miscarriage of justice cases in the UK and the USA, subsequently using the same expertise, experience and network to manage risks and crises for corporate, high-net-worth and high-profile clients. I would like to say that I knew the extensiveness of the business benefits of pro bono work, but I could not have even imagined just how truly impactful it would be for our business development.
Here are just a few of the advantages of building a social enterprise with a pro bono component:
The most significant unforeseen consequence of our pro bono work is the team that we have built as a result. Creating a community of people who want to work on high-profile miscarriage of justice cases and strive to make a difference has been key for us assembling a world-class group of investigators, operatives and experts. Working on very challenging cases for free demonstrates a common goal and work ethic, as well as bonding us as a unit. It is a good test of our collective skills and experience that are then transferred to the work we do for our corporate, high-net-worth and high-profile clients.
Our mission has brought us our biggest strength – our experts. Now, when start-up law firms ask why they should do pro bono work, even when it is economically challenging, this is always my first reason after the obvious “because it’s the right thing to do”.
Our pro bono work has assisted us in building our extensive network of professionals. Being able to reach out to individuals or companies who have the expertise that we don’t have for the benefit of our pro bono clients has been a key aspect of how we bring value to these cases. There are some industry experts who are less likely to speak to lawyers, but are happy to help if we approach them. Miscarriage of Justice cases (such as Freshwater Five, Andy Malkinson or the Cohen Brothers) that we work on with the amazing people at APPEAL continuously present us with challenges, which we need our network to work on for us. We are really fortunate, through these and other pro bono cases like Paddy Delaney, to have built an amazing global network of companies and people who have given their time and shared expertise.
A great example is a crisis we are managing, which involves very high-profile people who have been victims of a complicated fraud that has devastated their lives. We reached out to Tiger Law – an amazing innovative law firm – who without hesitation agreed to represent them on a pro bono basis when we told them the story.
Due to the popularity of documentary series like “Making a Murderer” and the many extremely well-done podcasts on Miscarriage of Justice and other criminal cases, we receive a considerable number of requests from film makers, podcasters and investigative journalists. Lost Boys and the members of our team have also been involved in the background of numerous such productions. In this way, similar to the law firms and other experts who become part of our network, we have also developed great relationships in the media and film sectors, which we can then rely upon for our paying clients as well.
The advantage of being a small business is that we are very agile. Because of Ana’s background at Stanford University, we are very open to using tech innovations to assist all our clients. We have found great value in having the ability to approach early-stage cutting-edge companies globally; key relationships have been developed by offering the start-ups the opportunity to demonstrate their products on high-profile cases and to test their ideas or products in challenging arenas, which they may not have considered or have had access to beforehand.
We are passionate about protecting entrepreneurs and start-up founders who are amazing at their particular discipline, but don’t have experience of managing the risk that success attracts; as well as us providing our expertise to assist them, they have equally often provided their expertise to assist us on our pro bono cases. It provides them with case studies they can share with investors and clients. Simultaneously, also allows us to use these same relationships and innovative tech to assist our corporate, private and legal clientele.
We learn from every single case we take on, with the massive variety of work we do keeping us current and encouraging imaginative approaches to how we manage risk and crisis for our corporate, high-net-worth and high-profile clients. Whether it is finding the family of an 82-year-old, creating a risk matrix for the company looking to vet investors or working on a historical crime investigation, every day is a school day.
Emily Bolton – APPEAL’s tenacious founder – once said to me that people who work for free just never give up and never stop, and, when I think of the thousands of hours spent on many of our ongoing cases, this is certainly true. However, these hours are not wasted in any way when viewed from a business point of view: yes, they have not been paid for by a client, but they give us unique range of knowledge and understanding of our collective capability. Like many businesses, some parts of the pandemic hit us hard financially, with companies of all sizes putting internal investigations on hold, as their staff were furloughed. Being able to use this time to work on our pro bono cases bonded our team together and carried us through.
Recently, I was at an event where a marketing company was presenting on the power of stories from the point of view of engaging with potential clients – it resonated with our experience. The stories we become part of through our pro bono work are often tales of overcoming massive odds, resilience and redemption. In many cases, we have the ability and permission to talk about them openly. This provides an opportunity for us to present publicly some of the skills, experience and expertise we can provide in the corporate world without breaching confidentiality of the sector.
Our stories also demonstrate to our clients that they are actively contributing by providing us the financial base to be able to help others who often have nowhere else to turn. We are immensely proud to have been trusted with the opportunity to be involved in some of these amazing cases as we have grown our business and brand. As I stated in at the beginning, pro bono was very much a part of our starting mission, I just didn’t realise how key it would be to actually creating our business. The continued importance of cases we do for free is highlighted at the end of every report we send:
Thank you for choosing Lost Boys Detective Agency. By being one of our valued clients, you contribute to our ability to work on Miscarriage of Justice cases, helping us protect businesses and people who have nowhere else to turn. When you hear us tell the stories of these cases, please know you helped make them possible.
Mark, Director of Lost Boys Detective Agency