Interview with 2011 Annual Pro Bono Award winner
- Organization: International Bar Association
- Document Type: Article/News
- Creation Date: Friday, June 29, 2012
- Submitted: Friday, June 29, 2012
- Attachment: PDF
Nominations are now open for the IBA's 2012 Pro Bono Award. This recognises practitioners dedicated to pro bono whose work has a significant impact on an individual, community group, country or the provision of pro bono services.
In 2011 Flavia Regina de Souza Oliveira, a lawyer with the Sao Paulo firm, Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados won the award. She is Group Leader of Mattos Filho's Non-profit Practice devoted to NGOs and corporate social responsibility. Flavia also co-founded the Insituto Pro Bono, Brazil's only clearing house of pro bono service delivery. She lectures on legal aspects of NGOs and coordinates the Third Sector Law Program at Fundacao Getulio Vargas.
Flavia still finds it hard to believe that she won last year's award. She's had a positive response to the award from colleagues, who were proud of her for achieving international recognition for her work. Nonetheless, she remains humble. 'I don't know if I've done so much. Three weeks ago, I saw a documentary about an internship around the world. When the film was finished, I thought "I am nothing. I do nothing. These people do something. They left their houses to make an impact". I chose to do this with my life and it's part of my everyday life.'
Flavia graduated from University of Sao Paulo School of Law in 1994 and after two years as a Senior Tax Consultant at Arthur Andersen, joined Mattos Filho. She says 'I wanted to do something for society, so I had to work pro bono. I had to get involved.'
Flavia highlighted the unique culture of pro bono work in Brazil. Commercial lawyers cannot do pro bono work for individuals, only for NGOs that can't afford to pay fees and can prove they can't afford it. Individuals in Brazil can look to public services for pro bono legal support but 'there is a long line for public services because there are not enough. Numbers are horrible today. Brazil is the 4th or 5th largest economy and there is a huge discrepancy between poor and rich. There is lots of poverty even though Brazil is important in economic situations.'
Flavia reflected that bar associations, like the New York State Bar Association which is drafting a mandate that lawyers commit at least 50 hours of pro bono service a year, are part of a 'different world.' She has set her sights on-developing a similar culture of pro bono service amongst Brazilian lawyers to cut through red tape and make a wider impact. 'There is still so much to do. Mattos Filho has a strong social commitment and wants to spread this culture in Brazil. Everybody knows we do pro bono work and that we are serious, but organisations cannot afford Mattos Filho fees. They would be out of the system.'
However, Flavia is hopeful for the future. 'When I was at university only a small group of students volunteered to do pro bono clinics. But the new generation wants something different and universities are preparing more interesting work to do, more interesting projects. These students will be different lawyers, with a greater conscience. They come to learn about human rights and don't know about access to justice in Brazil - they have lots of questions, good questions.'
Flavia encourages lawyers undertaking pro bono services to apply for the award. 'There are many lawyers who should be worthy of an award. There is lots of good work out there.'
To apply for the award, download a nomination form from the IBA pro bono website. Complete and send to Jemma McVey, IBA Divisions Administrative Assistant, no later than Friday 13 July 2012.