Social responsibility

From the firm’s beginnings, we have assisted institutions and initiatives important for building democracy, the rule of law, and the civil society.

Human rights protection and educational initiatives are the focus of the firm’s social responsibility.

Our efforts can be divided into two fields: pro bono legal assistance and other forms of support for selected institutions and initiatives.

Current matters:

  • We are acting in a case on performance by the Polish government of obligations undertaken in a proceeding before the European Court of Human Rights. Our client was the petitioner in the matter, seeking compensation due to the poor conditions in the local social welfare home. The governmental respondent recognised his claim and paid him compensation, but then the amount he received was deemed by the commune to be income serving as grounds for significantly raising his fees for staying at the home and effectively depriving him of the compensation he had earlier received. We are pursuing this case as part of the Strategic Litigation programme of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, which we have been involved in since 2007. The goal of the programme is to obtain precedent-setting judgments changing the practice or regulations on specific issues raising serious doubts in terms of protection of human rights, both between the individual and the state and between private entities.
  • We represent a trade union activist fighting for employee rights who was fired from his job. One of the main grounds stated for termination was wearing his working clothes outside of the workplace—during a protest against infringement of employee rights. We are leading the case under the Article 32 programme of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, aimed at combating discrimination and promoting equal treatment.
  • We represent an incapacitated person in a constitutional petition before the Constitutional Tribunal, in which we dispute the compliance of the model of total incapacitation with the standards set forth in the Polish Constitution. We are also pursuing this case under the Article 32 programme of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

Past matters:

  • We defended a photo journalist who reported in the summer of 2017 on protests by activists in the Białowieża Forest. He was accused of crossing forest land at a prohibited location and refusing to leave the site when demanded by an authorised person. He was convicted by a summary judgment, which he appealed against. During the court proceeding the firm took the position that the photo journalist had not met the elements of the offences he was convicted of, as the prohibition on entering the forest was defectively issued. Moreover, in reporting on the situation from the Białowieża Forest and memorialising in photos the defence of one of the best-preserved natural forests in Europe, while archiving measures aimed at cutting the timber in the forest, he was serving the society in his role as a journalist. The journalist’s presence ensured that the anti-logging protests would be accurately reported and the society would be precisely informed of the events. The court acquitted the journalist, finding that his actions did not constitute the offences charged. The judgment is legally final. The case was conducted pursuant to a project of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights devoting to providing legal assistance to journalists and bloggers.
  • Also in cooperation with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, we represented three journalists from a Polish public radio station in court proceedings challenging their disciplinary termination. The fired journalists were legally protected trade union activists. They were fired when, to support journalists from Polish Radio 3 removed from the air, they became involved in the social media campaign on silenced journalists, #kogoniesłychać. The cases were conducted as part of the foundation’s Free Media Observatory programme, devoted to monitoring the protection of freedom of expression in Poland and instances of infringement.
  • We represented a Sikh who sued the Border Guards for violation of his moral rights when he was ordered to remove his turban during a security check at the Warsaw airport. We led the case as part of the Strategic Litigation programme of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights to combat ethnic and religious discrimination.
  • We represented foreigners before the administrative courts seeking protection in Poland in conjunction with the Legal Assistance to Refugees and Migrants programme of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.
  • Also with the foundation, we drafted an amicus brief in a case before the European Court of Human Rights involving disproportionate limitation of access to the courts in requiring the plaintiff to identify the defendant’s actual place of residence in the statement of claim. The brief sought to change the overly restrictive practice in this respect.
  • We have co-authored reports on Polish law and practice for many social organisations, such as the Dutch foundation Child and Youth Finance International and Ashoka Polska, supporting educational and economic integration of young people around the world.
  • We have participated in the Pro Bono Legal Advice Programme offered by the Warsaw Bar Association of Attorneys-at-Law, providing free legal assistance to persons in financial need.
  • We provided legal support for the Rodzić po Ludzku (“Humane Birthing”) Foundation, advising on operation of their portal gdzierodzic.info, a site for exchange of information on the quality and standards of obstetrics care at hospitals and clinics, helping to improve healthcare standards.
  • We have provided advice for selected initiatives of Centrum Pro Bono, an organisation linking non-governmental organisations seeking legal support with law firms specialising in their field. In our cooperation with the centre, we conducted training on employment law for NGOs.

We provide substantive, organisational and financial support to selected institutions and initiatives. We are particularly involved in initiatives promoting knowledge of human rights among secondary school and university students, and in preparing law students for practice as adwokaci and attorneys-at-law.

Currently:

  • Each year we support the summer course on International Protection of Human Rights offered jointly by the Poznań Centre for Human Rights of the Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Law and Administration at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.
  • Each year we support national weeks at the College of Europe campuses in Natolin and Bruges.
  • Since 2014 we have conducted workshops on arbitration for students at the Centre for the Study of English and European Law at the Faculty of Law and Administration at the University of Warsaw. We also provide financial support for the centre.
  • Since 2015 our lawyers have led classes for law students and recent graduates in the ICC Arbitration and ADR Training Programme at Jagiellonian University in Kraków.
  • In 2016 our lawyers conducted a series of lessons as part of Constitution Week, an initiative organised by the Prof. Zbigniew Hołda Association aimed at promoting knowledge of the Polish Constitution among secondary school students.
  • In 2016 we also supported the Constitutional Judicial Tournament organised by the Prof. Zbigniew Hołda Association and the Mediation Masters competition organised by the European Law Students’ Association.

In prior years:

  • We funded the prizes for the best presentations at the International Arbitration Competition organised by the Court of Arbitration at the Polish Chamber of Commerce and the European Legal Studies Institute in Osnabrück (2012).
  • We sponsored the Jagiellonian University team taking part in the ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition and the teams from the universities of Warsaw and Wrocław competing in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot (2012).
  • On two occasions, we co-organised a nationwide commercial law competition with the Corporate Law Club at the Faculty of Law and Administration at the University of Warsaw (2012 and 2013).
  • We provided organisational support for the European Pro Bono Forum held in Warsaw by PILnet – The Global Network for Public Interest Law (2013).