It’s pro bono week, so we thought we’d have a chat with Alexander Kolmakov from DLA Piper — he’s close to completing his 15th case.
DLA Piper are one of KIND UK’s longest standing partners, and Alexander has been working at their London offices for five years now — right when our project started. He’s got nine successful pro bono cases under his belt, with six more applications that are ready to be submitted. So that’s 15 families he’s supported, who may have otherwise gone without access to justice.
Alexander approaches his pro bono cases with the same rigor and attention as his billable cases, and the results are more than tangible. He talked about delivering the good news to the mother of a recent client: “she couldn’t stop thanking us when we told her that we were sending over her certificate, and that her daughter was now British. She was super excited.”
Before finally settling down in London five years ago, Alexander left Russia to live in New York. In fact, he moved between London and New York multiple times. This meant that he needed to complete visa applications and provide supporting documents — there were some definite similarities between doing this, and submitting citizenship applications for children in the UK. “So I had those skills regardless of being a lawyer,” and in doing this pro bono work he was able to apply his legal skills to those.
Taking his first pro bono case with us was exciting, because it was something different “it’s great to do the same thing again and again, because you know what you’re doing. But with my first case I was learning something new — a different type of law to what I normally do.” Sure, he’d never taken cases like this before, but he had confidence from having done his own visa applications, and always knew that a supervising solicitor was on the other side of the phone, should he need any help. He mentioned that “the support that KIND offer is well designed, especially with the resources and templates you provide.”
Five years on, and fifteen cases later, he’s proud to be armed with all of this valuable experience: “and now I have the drive to do these cases quickly, because I know I can make a real difference in these peoples lives, and I know the processes now.” He can pick up a pro bono case and see the fruits of his labour just four or five months down the line. This tight feedback loop of success makes the work all the more satisfying, and is a welcome deviation from the more abstract successes of corporate law.
When a lawyer takes on a pro bono case with KIND, we will provide a supervising solicitor from one of our hubs to support them through the case. As part of this, the supervising solicitor will always sit in on the first meeting with the client. Alexander has even grown beyond the need for this, which in turn frees up our supervising solicitors to give even more support to lawyers who may be newer to the project — this illustrates how his time over the years has brought value to the project in more ways than one.
We appreciate that the amount of time that a lawyer like Alexander has given to KIND is exceptional, and therefore we would like to extend a special thanks to him and DLA Piper for all their hard work. Congratulations are also in order: Alexander informed us that in a couple of months, he too will become a permanent resident in the UK.
There are currently an estimated 215,000 undocumented children living in the UK. Around only 10% of these have applied to secure their immigration status — this percentage would be even lower if it wasn’t for the lawyers offering up their time and expertise.
If you represent a corporate law firm, and want to start working with KIND UK, we have more information on beginning a partnership with KIND.