Blakes plays a leading role in promoting the delivery of pro bono legal services in Canada and encourages associates and partners to pursue worthwhile causes. The Firm was among the first national law firms in Canada to adopt a formal policy that treats time spent on pro bono legal services as equivalent to billable hours. We were also one of the first Canadian law firms to form a national committee to review and proactively seek out pro bono opportunities. In addition, we regularly conduct seminars to discuss pro bono projects and successes.

Blakes is an active member of Access Pro Bono in British Columbia and actively supports Pro Bono Law Alberta and Pro Bono Ontario, which are not-for-profit organizations dedicated to enhancing access to pro bono legal services. In 2008, we were presented with the Canadian National Pro Bono Law Firm Award by these organizations for our dedication and commitment to representing those who cannot afford legal assistance or qualify for legal aid.

We have also received other awards for our pro bono work, including the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Award (2016), the Canadian Association for Community Living President’s Award (2015) and the National Literacy Award from ABC Canada (2007).

Today, Blakes is proud to say it has one of the largest pro bono programs in Canada. Below are some of the organizations or initiatives we assist. 

160 Girls

An initiative promoted by the equality effect, 160 Girls seeks to compel the enforcement of existing laws in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi that prohibit sexual assault and bring light to the epidemic of sexual violence against women and girls. Blakes was instrumental in assisting 160 Girls achieve a landmark victory in May 2013 where Kenyan law enforcement officials were ordered to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence. In 2017, 160 Girls was recognized by the United Nations for advancing women's rights.

Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland 

Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland facilitates life-changing relationships that inspire and empower girls to reach their potential. A Blakes partner is a director and co-chair of the board. We also have a team of Blakes lawyers who provide pro bono advice in the area of employment, governance and financial services.​

Boys and Girls Clubs

For many years, Blakes has been providing advice on corporate matters to Boys and Girls Clubs in various centres. We have assisted the clubs in Vancouver and Delta/Richmond, B.C., with a consensual merger to expand and enhance the services they provide to children, youth and families in need. In Calgary, we have been providing an annual Blakes scholarship for homeless youth to further their educational pursuits and find self-sufficiency. 

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)

Since 2010, Blakes has represented the BCCLA in six interventions before the Supreme Court of Canada. The cases involved a wide variety of issues of public importance, including internet defamation, wiretaps, election advertising, warrantless searches, religious membership and freedom of information. Our submissions helped the court define the issues and resolve the cases in keeping with Canada’s fundamental legal principles.

Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL)

CACL is a family-based association assisting people with intellectual disabilities and their families to lead the way in advancing inclusion in their own lives and their communities. Blakes has been providing pro bono assistance to CACL since 2001, in addition to helping bring awareness to the stigma surrounding intellectual disabilities. 

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF)

CBCF is supported in a number of ways, including through a partner at Blakes who has been a member of the board of directors with CBCF since 2002 and through the Firm's involvement in their fundraising work across the country, including the Run for the Cure and Daffodil Month.

Connect Legal

Blakes is one of the founding law firms of Connect Legal, a not-for-profit corporate legal clinic in Toronto that connects immigrant entrepreneurs with commercial lawyers for free legal help. Some of the individuals we have assisted were also winners or finallists of Connect Legal’s inaugural immigrant entrepreneur award.

Evergreen Brick Works Project

Blakes is making a significant difference to the environment by actively supporting “social entrepreneurs,” such as Evergreen, a charity dedicated to making cities more livable. Their Brick Works project in Toronto was a derelict industrial site that was transformed into an environmental centre showcasing sustainability and green design. Since 2004, over 85 Blakes lawyers have played critical roles in guiding the project to fruition.

Fast and Female

Fast and Female strives to empower young women in sport by providing them strong, resilient athlete role models who work with the girls through various programs and events to instil in them their motto: “Girls in sports are empowered for life!” Blakes continues to work on contractual and organizational matters with Fast and Female, including drafting sponsorship contracts and assisting with the development of their governance manual.

Habitat for Humanity Canada (HFHC)

Since 2007, over 50 Blakes partners, associates and law clerks have provided pro bono legal assistance to HFHC. Blakes teams also participate annually in HFHC construction projects, such as its first-ever Women’s Build Blitz to help launch the largest women’s build project ever undertaken in Canada. In 2015, we partnered with several LGBT clients to build a home for a family in Scarborough, Ontario, through HFHC's PrideBuild initiative.

International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP)

Blakes works with ISLP on providing pro bono assistance to governments in Africa. In Liberia, we helped restore the country’s legal system and advised on a community impact agreement related to palm oil production. In Senegal, we trained government officials on environmental and social impact assessments, public consultation, and social responsibility in the context of mining projects. In Zimbabwe, we trained police, prosecutors, private-practice lawyers, and members of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit and Anti-Corruption Commission on detecting, investigating and preventing economic crime. One of our partners is also a member of ISLP’s board of directors.

Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation

Blakes has supported the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation with establishing a Canadian not-for-profit corporation, Convergence Blended Finance, Inc., to connect, develop and support blended finance investments in developing countries. Blakes has also taken the lead in coordinating other pro bono efforts in support of Convergence across the Lex Mundi network with lawyers in the U.S., the U.K., Netherlands, Switzerland, Hong Kong, South Africa and other jurisdictions. We are also assisted with registering Convergence with the Ontario Securities Commission to roll out its full capabilities.

Parkinson's Society of British Columbia (PSBC)

Since 2006, Blakes has worked in partnership with the PSBC, providing advice to individuals with Parkinson’s, developing general resources to make people aware of the legal rights of individuals with Parkinson’s, and providing corporate governance advice. Many of the cases Blakes supports involve fighting discrimination in the workplace and barriers to services or facilities generally available to the public.

Power of Attorney Clinics

Blakes has partnered with Pro Bono Ontario and BMO to provide power of attorney (POA) services for personal care and property to patients at local hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa through POA Clinics. Our volunteers consist of partners, associates and staff lawyers.

Ronald McDonald House 

Ronald McDonald House seeks to provide a home away from home for seriously ill children and their families to heal better together. Blakes has been providing pro bono services to Ronald McDonald House in both Toronto and Southern Alberta for the past five years. One of our partners is a member of the board of directors of the Toronto house, and others serve on committees and participate in various activities.

Right to Play International (RTP)

This international not-for-profit works to improve the lives of children in disadvantaged areas of the world using the power of sport and play. Since 2006, Blakes has assisted RTP in a wide variety of matters, including helping it to become a recognized international leader in the not-for-profit humanitarian sector.​​​​​​​​​​

​Special Olympics Canada

Blakes has worked closely with the Canadian Special Olympics organization on a pro bono basis for many years, providing support as directors and officers and providing legal advice on a wide range of corporate and sports matters.