Shane Kelleher (Solicitor)
Shane is a solicitor working at William Fry, one of Ireland’s largest law firms. William Fry provide legal advice and expertise in all areas of the law: corporate; property; banking and financial services; tax; projects and construction; litigation, dispute resolution and employment and benefits. Shane has ten years post qualification experience and specialises in corporate law.
Shane has always been interested in helping community and voluntary organisations and has been bringing his legal expertise and other skills to the sector for a number of years. He has volunteered for Amnesty International LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual and transgender). Network, the Simon Community, Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Special Olympics. More recently Shane signed up on a different note as an adult literacy tutor.
It was a great pleasure for me as CEO to work with Shane. Shane’s work was totally done on a pro bono basis and I was hugely impressed with the detailed and professional way he dealt with all the legal aspects of the Games. It was a huge asset to the Games Organising Committee to have Shane’s expertise throughout. He always gave his time willingly in whatever capacity was required and he showed great empathy with the Special Olympics athletes who attended the Games
Mary Davis - Managing Director, Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia
As an active member of Amnesty in Ireland he became involved with the organisation’s LGBT By this time in 1999 many gay people in Ireland enjoyed relative openness and freedom, particularly in Dublin. However this was unfortunately not the case for other people in many countries around the world, and depending on where you lived in Ireland and your own personal circumstances, things could be difficult here too. Shane became chairperson of a group of Amnesty volunteers who wanted to focus on human rights violations based on sexual orientation. The group held meetings and seminars to raise awareness of human rights violations based on sexual orientation. Shane also wrote a regular column on human rights issues of concern to LGBT people in Gay Community News. Creating awareness of the plight of others worked as a way of bringing Irish LGBT people closer together as a community, under a wider and common cause and understanding of oppression based on sexual orientation.
One of Shane’s most positive experiences of voluntary work to date was when his firm, William Fry, offered their services as pro bono legal advisers to the company which organized the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland, the biggest sporting event in Europe that year. When hosting the games the local country must adhere to all of the Special Olympics standards, criteria and legislation. This involves a host of legal agreements relating to financing, planning and operating the Games including agreements for venue hire, logistics, transport, sponsorship, volunteers etc. Shane was one of the main points of contact between William Fry and the client. At first, Shane wondered what the Special Olympics official motto “Share the Feeling” meant. However Shane was quickly impressed with how Special Olympics and its CEO Mary Davis practiced what they preached about including people with learning difficulties in all aspects of planning the Games, including at board level. After many months of drafting and reviewing legal agreements William Fry staff joined guests with learning difficulties at the opening of the Games, a truly unforgettable experience for all who were lucky enough to attend. Shane said; “the atmosphere was amazing. Our staff got really involved and everybody was so proud to be working for an organisation that gave its staff an opportunity to volunteer for such a worthwhile organisation as Special Olympics.”
Mary Davis, Managing Director for Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia is enthusiastic about involving volunteers strategically; “It was a great pleasure for me as CEO to work with Shane . Shane’s work was totally done on a pro bono basis and I was hugely impressed with the detailed and professional way he dealt with all the legal aspects of the Games. It was a huge asset to the Games Organising Committee to have Shane’s expertise throughout the organising of the Games. He always gave his time willingly in whatever capacity was required and he showed great empathy with the Special Olympics athletes who attended the Games.”
As Shane continued in his career, with a larger workload and longer hours, he found it difficult to commit to attending committee meetings consistently on weeknight evenings, a common problem for busy young volunteers. Shane felt he had to make a choice between scaling back on voluntary work or changing jobs to work in human rights full time. He decided to test the waters by leaving his job to do voluntary work. Shane was very lucky to quickly make contact with the International Human Rights Network (IHRN), an Irish human rights consultancy based in Oldcastle County Meath and set up by university lecturers Patrick Twomey and Karen Kenny. Shane had been learning Arabic and IHRN were looking for someone to assist them with organising a conference in Jordan for Iraqi human rights organisations. Shane helped the team put the event together, from generating delegate attendance, to inviting guest speakers and running the event itself in Jordan.
This led to a 7 month stint as a volunteer Comparative Law Researcher with Adalah – The Legal Centre for Minority Rights in Israel. This was the highlight of Shane’s time as a volunteer. Shane worked alongside Israeli lawyers drawn from both the Palestinian and Jewish communities in Israel, and helped to research international case law to support Adalah’s constitutional challenges to the Israeli Supreme Court.
“Working with Adalah was an amazing experience, I learned so much about human rights and the law and I was also able to bring my legal skills and experience as a practicing solicitor to the table. As is so common in non profit organisations, Adalah’s services are in great demand but they are continually under-resourced, the extra resource of a qualified solicitor was very much appreciated. The highlight of my work was when Adalah won a Supreme Court challenge to an Israeli law which denied people living in the Occupied Territories the right to the state for destruction of their homes and property due to the negligence of the Israeli army. The court held that this was in fact discriminatory. A rare victory for human rights in the Occupied Territories.”
Voluntary work with human rights charities inspired Shane to go on to do a Masters in International Human Rights Law and to work in the sector for several years. Shane believes there is a great opportunity for community and voluntary organisations to tap into volunteers with legal skills but the difficulty is often matching the organisation with the right type volunteer lawyer. Like doctors, not every lawyer is a general practitioner and many are specialists in areas such as property, employment, litigation or charity law. If it is possible it may be useful for voluntary organisations to set up a panel of volunteer lawyers with different skill sets and this would also avoid overburdening any single legal volunteer with an unrealistic amount of work. Also, rather than simply asking law firms to donate money to charity it may be in a charity’s interest to ask law firms to “donate” a certain number of pro bono hours time to the charity per month or year. This is well established in countries such as the US and UK and is now happening more and more in Ireland. Time may be more valuable to the charity than a financial donation and it may lead to other contributions to the charity from the law firm’s staff.