Banyan: SOAS Advocates is looking to take on new projects

What is Banyan: SOAS Advocates?

Banyan: SOAS Advocates is a student-run network of postgraduate law students studying at SOAS, University of London . Banyan was set-up in April 2012 by Luke Smitham and Jessica Whelligan, 2 MA Law students at SOAS who graduated in September 2012. They currently form the organising committee, with Deval Desai, a former research associate at SOAS and current PhD candidate at Harvard, and Hayley Ichilcik and Matthew Burnett-Stuart, both currently studying for postgraduate degrees in Law at SOAS.

Banyan mobilises our members to offer pro bono legal and policy research as well as drafting skills to interested third parties looking to collaborate on projects that have clear development, human rights or social justice advocacy goals.

What can Banyan provide? 

The types of projects we can take on include drafting research memos, providing research for amicus curae briefs, background legal research and even writing chapters of reports. Our students have an immense pool of knowledge and skill sets to draw on. As long as a project fulfils our ethical guidelines, we are happy to send a call-out to our students to form a team.

Banyan does not offer a legal advice service.

Banyan responds to requests from organisations such as civil society actors, law firms and development organizations.

How does it work?

Once a project is agreed upon, we ask an organisation to fill out our pro forma document. We send out a call to our members and form a team with those that respond.

In order to ensure we manage to get a team together, there are certain things to bear in mind. Our students will be working on projects during their studies. We try and keep all projects to a 5 hours per week per student and set clear deadlines and goals from the beginning. Organisations should cover any expenses and respect the fact that the students have other commitments. Having said that, our students are incredibly motivated and committed to the work they take on, and their skills ensure high-quality output.

Once Banyan has formed a team, all interactions take place between the organisation and the team.. We can also elect a team leader to co-ordinate, or try and obtain academic supervision or a PhD student if any organisation desires. Please note, this is not always possible. Banyan is always available should any issues arise during a project cycle.

Who has Banyan worked with in the past?

Organisations that have called upon Banyan include The Revenue Watch Institute, Deighton Pierce Glynn, MSI Integrity and The Corporate Responsibility Coalition CORE.

Amelia Evans at the MSI Institute said of Banyan:

“The SOAS advocates at Banyan provided critical assistance to MSI Integrity. A team of three students worked flexibly under tight time constraints to research into multi-stakeholder initiatives.  The work produced was excellent, and formed the basis of a central component of MSI Integrity’s work in 2012.  The team were reliable, professional and full of fresh visions and critical thoughts. Here’s hoping that there will be more opportunities to collaborate with Banyan soon.”

Banyan has also been featured in The Guardian and Lawyer 2B

More information

For further information, please visit our website at or email us at

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