Thomson Reuters Foundation has launched TrustLaw, what it describes as “an ambitious global service that will transform access  to pro bono legal support and provide an international hub on anti-corruption and good governance issues. The new service www.trust.org/trustlaw will widen access to the rule of law and promote greater transparency, empowering people with trusted information and free legal assistance.

Speaking at the launch, Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation said “At a time of great economic uncertainty, legal support is more important than ever for organisations addressing the critical social and environmental issues of our age. The Thomson Reuters Foundation has set itself an ambitious goal: to create a truly international new marketplace connecting those in need of free legal assistance with those able to provide it – anywhere in the world. The dramatic response we have already seen from the non-profit and legal communities highlights the appetite and need for such a service.”

As a global online resource on anti-corruption and good governance, TrustLaw brings together a repository of information, advice and best practice, along with agenda-setting material from the Foundation’s expert editorial team. With a database of national legislation, international conventions, news, country profiles and law reviews, this will offer a one-stop shop for anti-corruption and governance information. This model will later be used for other areas including women’s rights.

At the heart of the project is TrustLaw Connect, an online marketplace for pro bono work, which will help to spread the culture and practice of pro bono legal assistance around the globe. TrustLaw Connect is a must-have tool for lawyers interested in doing high-impact pro bono and volunteer work. Likewise, social entrepreneurs, NGOs and government agencies will be able to readily access pro bono legal support from lawyers anywhere in the world – for free.  TrustLaw Connect itself is an online platform, offered free to all members, enabling fast, efficient connections between those in need of legal assistance and those able to provide it. It will act as a trusted intermediary, vetting participants on all sides to ensure confidence in the requests and assistance provided.

On the Trustlaw Connect service, Stuart Popham, Senior Partner Worldwide at Clifford Chance said: “Trustlaw is such a great concept that will really help lawyers fulfill their social responsibilities. It is independent, cutting edge and has already got the support of large parts of the international legal community. It will reach those around the world most in need, even those who are furthest from the protection of the law. I am delighted to be involved with this unique new marketplace.”

Monique Villa said “We recognised that a key barrier for law firms managing a pro bono programme is making initial contact with organisations with high impact projects. NGOs and entrepreneurs are also often unaware of the help they can receive. TrustLaw Connect will bridge this gap.” Over 190 organisations working in over 140 countries have already joined TrustLaw Connect, including over 60 leading law firms from around the world. Joining the first truly international service of its kind, ahead of launch, leading lawyers firms such as Slaughter and May, Eversheds, Herbert Smith, Torys, Bird & Bird and Beirut Legal have already assisted NGOs and entrepreneurs through the Trustlaw Connect network.

Comment: this is one of those stories you have to re-read 83 times to work out what they are on about. However we think it seems a good idea – even we do have a cynical view of large law firms talking about their social responsibilities and pro-bono work (a bit like celebrities doing good work 'for charidee'). The sites content is provided by Westlaw and Reuters writers.