Corporate lawyers get into referendum spirit
A group of rookie corporate lawyers have a launched a campaign to dissuade the nation from leaving the EU, as the UK arm of a transatlantic law firm seeks to use its resources to get young people to vote whichever way they like.
Led by Bond Dickinson solicitor Darren Jones and Freshfields associate Jenny Leahy, Young Lawyers’ Network is gearing up for a host of talks in schools about the virtues of EU membership ahead of the likely referendum date in June.
Jones and his colleagues believe that Brexit “will limit future opportunities for young people in Britain”, highlighting the right to study in another member state as a key factor, and “want to make sure that people understand this before going to the ballot box.”
Meanwhile, Hogan Lovells is reminding young people to register to vote ahead of the referendum by throwing its weight behind a charity-led initiative.
The megafirm has teamed up with London-based charity Bite The Ballot to encourage more young people to play an active role in democratic decision-making in their local towns and cities.
The party-neutral charity — that has been a pro bono partner of Hogan Lovells for over three years — launched its week-long annual campaign on Monday.
The campaign, dubbed the National Voter Registration Drive (NVRD), aims to raise awareness about the benefits of young people getting registered and engaging in the political process more widely.
With the Brexit referendum on the horizon, and over 100 national and local elections scheduled for May, there is enthusiasm to make it as easy as possible for young people to have their say.
Hogan Lovells is putting up more than just money to further this aim, with the firm’s lawyers helping to draft — and lobby for — a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Lords on the charity’s behalf. Hoping to reform how the government approaches the registration of young people, the firm also organised outreach projects at local schools enabling students to better understand how to get involved in the voting process.
Recognising the important connection between upholding the rule of law and the exercising of democratic rights, Yasmin Waljee, international pro bono director at Hogan Lovells, said:
It’s a vicious cycle for young people — issues relating to and concerning young people are not being prioritised by politicians but equally not enough young people are voting and politicians listen to voters. The recent move to Individual Voter Registration driven by Government is estimated to have resulted in nearly a million people falling off the electoral register, the majority of whom are young people.
Acknowledging the important work undertaken by Bite The Ballot and initiatives such as NVRD, she continued:
Fortunately, there are organisations working hard to solve this problem, such as our Pro Bono client Bite the Ballot. Thanks to our combined efforts young people are starting to get their act together and register to vote. Now politicians need to give them something to vote for.
The news comes as a host of big firms, including Hogan Lovells and Freshfields, gear up for possible Brexit by assembling specialist EU teams to handle the fall-out if it happens, while also preparing clients with contingency plans even if it doesn’t happen. The expanded teams are currently hoovering up qualifying trainees with an interest in this area of law.