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Sussex Uni and Covington join forces to launch pro bono clinic for performing arts charities

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Staffed by law students

Law students from the University of Sussex will be offering free legal advice to performing arts charities through a new pro bono clinic in partnership with US law firm Covington & Burling.

The Performing Arts Law Clinic, which launched last week, will provide legal advice and support to a range of UK performing arts charities who are struggling financially and face complex legal issues as a result of Brexit and the pandemic.

The clinic is staffed by law students who work under the supervision of academics at Sussex and lawyers from the London office of Covington — a firm which boasts global revenues in excess of £1 billion and clients including Apple, Bank of America and the NBA.

The tie-up has been made possible thanks to the efforts of Christopher Walter, the former managing partner of Covington’s London office and a trustee of a non-profit production company, who approached Sussex with the idea of launching a free legal advice service.

“Christopher got in touch with us completely out of the blue with this extraordinary idea and offer to partner on a performing arts legal advice clinic,” explained professor Amir Paz-Fuchs, director of clinical legal education at Sussex University. “Such clinics are not uncommon in the US but, excitingly, ours will be the first to launch in the UK.”

Paz-Fuchs continued: “This clinic will be 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.”

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Walter, who now co-chairs the firm’s international employment practice, added:

“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.”

The clinic’s first cohort of clients include Glyndebourne Productions Limited, Orchestras for All and Garsington Opera, with the aim of supporting more local and smaller charities in the future. It will initially operate as a pilot programme over the 2021/2022 academic year, before officially becoming one of the uni’s main pro bono offerings.

Universities across the country have been upping their pro bono efforts in recent years to plug the gap left by swingeing cuts to legal aid. Last month BPP Law School launched a pro bono clinic specialising in welfare rights following similar initiatives by the likes of City Law School, King’s College London, Bolton, Salford and Hertfordshire.

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