Pro bono at Slaughter and May: a charity deal

Associate Sarah Peazer explains what pro bono is and how she and her colleagues provided valuable legal advice to an organisation for carers

Why does a top commercial law firm like Slaughter and May do pro bono work? "Ultimately a firm is a collection of individuals working together, and most people in our society want to help others out where they can," says Sarah Peazer, a one year-qualified associate at the firm.

Sarah spends most of her time on some of the world's most complex corporate mergers, but is also committed to pro bono. She recently worked on one of the firm's biggest and most long-term pieces of pro bono work ever - bringing two large UK charities together.

Deciding to team up

Last year, the Princess Royal Trust for Carers (PRTC) and Crossroads Care decided to merge and are now known collectively as Carers Trust. For both organisations, which support those who care for ill or disabled family members or friends, it was a big step.

But, Sarah explains, economic realities meant that teaming up made sense: "It's a time of reduced government funding, so it's harder for charities to raise funds. These two charities had already been working closely together, and they realised that a combined entity would have greater fundraising ability."

The firm's work on the matter

Sarah worked on the transaction with a senior associate and a trainee, plus an overseeing partner. Their role started with guiding longstanding client PRTC and potential merger partner Crossroads through their decision to take this big step, just as they would do with a corporate client contemplating a merger.

"We were involved very early on in helping the trustees develop the proposal," says Sarah "- how they could decide if the fit was right, how they would structure the merger, what steps they'd need to take, and how the new organisation would work."

Once the decision to merge had been taken, the members of the Slaughter and May team then played a crucial role in making the join-up between the two charities actually happen.

"We did detailed legal due diligence on the two charities and then drafted the legal documentation needed," continues Sarah, which happened through setting up a new charity to which all the assets of Crossroads and PRTC were transferred.

"The structure resembled that of some of the corporate mergers we work on," says Sarah, "- two organisations combining under a new entity that's been established for that purpose."

In for the long haul

Of course, says Sarah, "there are always unexpected bumps and twists in every transaction, and this one was no exception."

She explains how, in particular, developing an organisational structure for the new charity was challenging because PRTC and Crossroads had very different ways of working. But, in the end, all the issues were overcome, and getting the transaction done gave Sarah and her colleagues a great sense of achievement.

"The best part," she says, "was working closely with the client to develop what we hope will be a long-lasting and successful new charity that's going to make a huge difference to people's lives. I felt real pride when the documents were signed - we'd done a fantastic thing."

The merger became official in April 2012, and since then Slaughter and May has carried on working with Carers Trust: "It's great to be involved with the charity, and we'll continue to help where we can," says Sarah.

For example, one of her colleagues is currently putting together an advisory pack to help Carers Trust deal with day-to-day legal issues. The firm, Sarah says, is always on the look-out for opportunities like this for its lawyers to assist its pro bono clients, who arguably need their expertise the most.