Law students will be offering free legal advice to performing arts charities from 12th November 2021. The participating students in the Performing Arts Law Clinic will work under the supervision of expert law academics from the University of Sussex. They will also have support from lawyers from partnership company Covington & Burling LLP, an international Law firm based in the US. 

The clinic, the first of its kind in the UK, aims to help such charities deal with complex legal issues in light of the pandemic and Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Universities across the nation have been upping their pro bono efforts in recent months to counteract gaps left by funding cuts to authorize help, following similar initiatives by the likes of other higher education institutions Metropolis Regulation College, King’s College London, Salford, Bolton and Hertfordshire. Pro Bono work means the offering of free work by a legal team for the public good. 

Professor Amir Paz-Fuchs, director of clinical legal education and professor of law and social justice at the University of Sussex, said: 

“This clinic will be an invaluable experience for our students: offering them a real taste of life as an in-house lawyer for an organisation, giving them access to some of the best lawyers in the world, and providing a service that will be a lifeline to local performing arts charities hit hard by recent events.”

He also commented: “Charities generally face all the compliance and legal challenges of for-profit organisations but have little or no budget for lawyers. I am confident the Performing Arts Clinic will prove to be a great resource for its clients.”

It will initially run as a pilot scheme for the 2021/2022 academic year, before joining the University’s range of legal advice clinics officially. 

The clinic’s initial clients include Glyndebourne Productions Limited, Orchestras for All and the Garsington Opera, with plans to shift focus to more local and smaller charities in the coming months.

One of the first law students to volunteer in the clinic, Fraser Argyle, said: 

“Many of my close friends are involved in the performing arts and as such, I see on a day-to-day basis just how rewarding, yet simultaneously fragile, pursuing a career in this sector can be. This vulnerability has been exponentially heightened throughout the pandemic.

“As a student legal adviser, I look forward to helping charities navigate the increasingly complex legal challenges that they face during this difficult period, to the benefit of the artists and staff dependent on the survival of those organisations.”

Christopher Walter, former managing partner of Covington’s office in London, approached the University about the idea and was keen to help local and national charities that have been struggling financially and have been faced with a myriad of legal complexities and current changes. 

“Christopher got in touch with us completely out of the blue with this extraordinary idea and offered to partner on a performing arts legal advice clinic,” commented professor Amir Paz-Fuchs, at the University of Sussex. 

He added “Such clinics are not uncommon in the US but, excitingly, ours will be the first to launch in the UK.” 

Covington and Burling LLP is a multinational law firm with Headquarters in Washington DC. The firm specializes in navigating issues at the intersection of law and policy around the world.

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