Bet you didn't know that some lawyers have been Living Below the Line. Holman Fenwick Willan's Matt Illingworth talked to me as he was just finishing a five-day challenge to manage on a daily food budget of just £1, to raise awareness - and much needed funds - for the worlds extreme poor. An astonishing 1.4 billion people worldwide are living below the international poverty line, he told me. That equates to 20 times the population of the UK. I'll say that again: 20 times the population of the UK. He is raising money for ChildHope, his firm's long-term charity partner, as part of the Live Below the Line campaign aimed at challenging the way people in the UK think about worldwide poverty.
"I really wanted to do something meaningful for our firm's long-term charity ChildHope and when I heard they were taking part in the Live Below the Line project, I thought that would be perfect. We are so privileged in the West, and of course the legal profession in particular, that it's hard for us to comprehend how the other half lives. I'm well aware that my challenge is only for five days, so I'm not expecting to learn very much about what it's really like to be deprived of proper food. For a surprisingly large number of people in the world this is a permanent state of affairs with little hope of better times. And of course for me, while I am doing without food for this one short week, I am still living in a nice, safe place; I still have means to travel where I want to, or need to; and I am free to do pretty much as I please. So what am I hoping this initiative will achieve? Well, apart from raising money for the work of ChildHope and its ambition to help end extreme poverty, and apart from doing my bit to shine a light on the issue, I do have some personal goals. I am hoping it will permanently change the way I look at things. So far, my perspective has most definitely altered. Certain things I just don't take for granted any more: the privileges laid on for us every day working in law firms, such as the free food on offer in our meeting rooms, laid on just as gestures of hospitality; the freedom we have in our lives because we don't have the constant struggle for the basics that so many do; and my view of the waste we accept as normal in the West has definitely changed. I hope I don't lose this new perspective when my life returns to its usual routines. I certainly aim to be much more mindful of the resources at my disposal and wiser in how I use them."
Well Matt, we admire your dedication.
If you would like to support Matt in his Live Below the Line challenge, you can make a donation here.
Looking forward to Toasting Gromit Unleashed with the best of the South West. Thank you TLT! In June I have been invited to pay a visit to Bristol to admire the giant fibreglass sculpture of Gromit that this leading South West law firm has sponsored (can't wait to see this). It will be one of a total of 80 Gromit statues "unleashed" in and around Bristol over the Summer, each one designed and created by a different artist, creating an awesome arts trail and an opportunity for the individual pieces to be auctioned off for charity. TLT are good friends of Wallace & Gromit creators Aardman Animations having advised them for many years. This very cool event is part of Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal which is raising money for the expansion of Bristol's Children's Hospital.
"Cracking good job, Gromit!"
Kysen has signed up for the Law-Society-sponsored London Legal Walk! On Monday 20 May our team will be joining 6,000 or so others working in the legal profession on a 10km route through three of the Royal Parks and along Strand and The Embankment to raise money to fund free legal advice to those who can't afford to pay. Last year's walk raised over 600,000 pounds.
In a time where we are seeing the legal aid budget dwindle before our eyes, such initiatives are needed more than ever. The Law Society president herself has made this point emphasising the importance of legal charities such as advice agencies and pro bono centres.
Are you walking the walk? Do let us know.