The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
July 22, 2011

Pro Bono Blossoms in Post-Quake Japan

In the aftermath of Japan’s recent three-fold disaster, civic-minded professionals around the world are rallying to help survivors rebuild their country and their lives.  The earthquake that struck northeastern Japan on March 11 was the fourth most powerful (9.0 magnitude) in recorded history, triggering a tsunami and a level seven nuclear accident said to rival Chernobyl.  Thousands of people perished, thousands more remain missing, and estimates of the economic damage to the island nation run as high as $300 billion.  It is often the case that profound tragedy stirs a powerful sense of global community and inspires the desire to lend a helping hand to those in need.  Post-quake volunteer efforts in Japan have run the gamut from rubble removal to pro bono legal services.

The PBEye was pleased to learn from CSR Asia that the seeds of pro bono that took tentative root in Japan last season are beginning to blossom in the wake of the quake:

Similar to other parts in Asia, the concept of pro bono service has taken time to find its footing in Japan.  Before 2010, which was labeled “The first year of [p]ro bono in Japan”, this concept was merely limited to a select group.  However, it was not until the ill-fated events of March that the term pro bono started gaining wider currency in business circles.

One example of post-quake pro bono is the “Rebuild Japan Initiative.”  Set up by the U.S.-based Boston Consulting Group, the Initiative delivers pro bono legal services to nongovernmental organizations like Save the Children Japan that in turn provide relief and developmental support to people in devastated areas of Japan.  And, other organizations, like Service Grant and the Daino Tokyo Bar Association, are leading the movement to institutionalize pro bono into Japan’s legal culture.

We hope that what CSR Asia dubs “Japan’s Year of Pro Bono” is but the beginning of an enduring national pro bono tradition.  Japan, we’ve got our PBEye on you, with great expectations…

Is your firm or legal department working in Japan? We’d love to hear about it — leave a comment below.