The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

Global Pro Bono

June 17, 2015

Liberia, the Magna Carta, and the Rule of Law

151107828 480622343

On June 15, thousands of people from around the world descended on a field in Runnymede in the United Kingdom to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta. Although the Magna Carta was not the first time a monarch agreed to respect the rights and liberties of others, it went on to become an icon for the revolutionary concepts of due process and the rule of law. As British Prime Minister David Cameron noted at the commemoration, “Think of South Africa – of that courtroom in Rivonia. As Nelson Mandela stood in the dock, looking at a lifetime in prison, it was Magna Carta that he cited.”

How can pro bono attorneys contribute to the vision being discussed and celebrated this week? One answer is rule of law themed pro bono projects, particularly in post-conflict countries. A noteworthy example is a recently completed project in Liberia, in which Thomson Reuters Corporation** teamed up with Linklaters*†‡ and the nonprofit organization Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB).

As the country struggled to recover from the political upheaval and civil wars that occurred under former president Charles Taylor, Liberia’s legal system was additionally challenged by a lack of access to case law precedent in a readily usable format. To remedy this, LWOB secured seed project underwriting from the World Bank, publishing support from Thomson Reuters, and volunteer lawyers from Linklaters to produce a digest of case summaries and key-word index of over 3,700 Liberian cases beginning in the 1860s. This five-year project involved a cross-disciplinary team of over 200 Linklaters lawyers, trainees, and summer associates, from offices in New York, London, Dubai, Hong Kong, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, and Paris. Thomson Reuters Corporation helped organize the case digest structure and printed hard copies of the digest and index; these have now been provided to every judge in Liberia. Making such information readily available in a meaningful way should help improve the efficacy and consistency of legal governance in Liberia, although electricity and internet connectivity issues have delayed the longer-term goal of making the digest and index available online.

The work of the Magna Carta is not yet done. But pro bono attorneys and other legal professionals are working to realize its vision in Liberia and elsewhere: a world governed by the rule of law. We will stay tuned!

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
 denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
New York office only participating in Challenge

May 15, 2015

Slave Labor in Australia

chains

According to the International Labour Organization’s 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour, there were an estimated 20.9 million people in forced labor around the world at any given point between 2002 and 2012. The majority of those individuals, 68 percent (14.2 million), were forced to work by private individuals or enterprise in activities such as agriculture, construction, domestic work, and manufacturing. In Australia, most investigations of forced labor have related to sexual exploitation. However, in March of this year, one victim of labor exploitation secured restitution, thanks to the help of pro bono counsel from Clayton Utz.

On March 27, the Australian Federal Circuit Court found that Mr. Dulo Ram, a 45-year-old Indian native, had been trafficked from rural India to an Indian restaurant in suburban Sydney by the restaurant’s owner. The owner lured Ram with the promise of a 457 visa, which is intended to create opportunities for temporary migrant workers in Australia. With no command of English nor contacts in Australia, Ram was forced to work as a cook for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. After working this pace for 16 months, with just one day off, Ram was paid just AUD$6,958.88. He also lived, ate, bathed, and slept in the restaurant kitchen. According to Ram, the owner threatened to harm his family and have him arrested if he returned to India.

Pro bono attorneys from Clayton Utz, working in partnership with Anti-Slavery Australia, a legal research and policy center focused on the abolition of slavery, trafficking, and labor exploitation, agreed to assist Ram in securing his missing wages. After three years of pro bono representation, the team secured a judgment awarding Ram AUD$186,000 in back-pay, entitlements, and interest.

David Hillard, partner, Clayton Utz, who led the team representing Ram, commented:

 “This is happening right now, in our community, under our noses. This case shows that there are avenues for obtaining justice for the victims of labour trafficking and slavery. Compensation will not erase the demeaning, degrading experience which our client has endured, but it does say plainly that what happened to him was wrong, and cannot be tolerated under Australian law.”

In Ram’s case, pro bono counsel played an indispensable role in overcoming logjams. Although the restaurant had been visited by the Department of Immigration, and Ram had complained to the Fair Work Ombudsman, in both cases the restaurant owner used lies and falsified wage records to undermine allegations of wrongdoing. Through pro bono representation, Ram was able to expose the documents provided by the restaurant owner as a sham.

The PBEye is happy to note that Ram has been granted a permanent witness protection (trafficking) visa to remain in Australia with his family. We applaud the work of dedicated pro bono attorneys, in Australia and around the world, who are fighting for justice for the survivors of human trafficking.

May 8, 2015

Upcoming Webinar: Integrating Pro Bono, CSR, and Charitable Giving

Puzzles 2

Join us Thursday, May 28 at 12:00 p.m. ET for “Best Practices: Integrating Pro Bono, CSR, and Charitable Giving,” a one-hour program hosted in conjunction with West LegalEdCenter. This program is part of our “Best of the 2015 PBI Annual Conference” series of webinars, which reprise and supplement select sessions from the 2015 PBI Annual Conference.

Increasingly, law firms and companies are taking a fresh look at how their pro bono activities can be integrated with or complement their charitable contribution practices and corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. This webinar will consider best practices for approaching, integrating, and managing these efforts in order to make a greater impact than any one alone can accomplish. The following panelists will address some of the potential benefits of integration, such as enhanced employee satisfaction, as well as potential concerns:

  • Jinny Jeong, CECP
  • Jake Lee, Allen & Overy†
  • Allegra Nethery, Seyfarth Shaw*
  • Sharon Sayles Belton, Thomson Reuters Corporation**

Interested in-house counsel should contact CPBO Project Assistant Josh Lefebvre for registration information or to submit questions in advance of the program. Registration is free for Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms. Law firm participants should contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson for registration information.

Schedule conflict? Don’t worry – the program will also be available on-demand shortly after the original broadcast date.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
**denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge®

 

February 20, 2015

Sharing Perspectives: Visitors from the Philippines

Pic2Earlier this month, PBI and CPBO were honored to welcome a delegation from Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, in a trip organized by the U.S. State Department. The delegation, composed primarily of Filipino law student leaders, came to exchange views on the development of pro bono structures, culture, and leadership. The group sat down with Law Firm Pro Bono Project Director Tammy Taylor, CPBO Director Eve Runyon, and Global Pro Bono Coordinator Sri Katragadda.

Two of the non-law students in the delegation: Eldred Cole, deputy regional prosecutor of Dumaguete City and Rhobert Maestre, president of the Mindanao Youth Volunteer Corps, provided details on the country’s mandatory 60 hour annual pro bono requirement and a brief look at the country’s legal profession. Both voiced an eagerness to advance the culture of pro bono and noted that this would ultimately be accomplished by involving the next generation of lawyers; hence the group’s heavy composition of law students. We were inspired by the thoughtful questions of these students, including law school clinic leaders, who are passionate about enhancing the profile of pro bono within the Filipino legal sector. For our part, PBI and CPBO discussed the history of pro bono development in the U.S. We noted that development of pro bono can be seen as both cultural — a growing expectation that pro bono is a normal part of an attorney’s practice — as well as structural — the institutional development of pro bono programs.

Stay tuned for more pro bono developments in the Philippines from our new friends.

 

October 29, 2014

PBI’s Got Seoul, Part 2

Last week, PBI was pleased to welcome officials from the Metropolitan Government of Seoul, South Korea. The visit comes nearly two years after PBI’s participation in South Korea’s first pro bono symposium. The officials, primarily from the Seoul government’s Legal Affairs Division, sat down with Law Firm Pro Bono Project Director Tammy Taylor and Global Pro Bono Project Coordinator Sri Katragadda to learn more about the history of pro bono in the U.S. The discussion was wide-ranging and touched on the role that PBI has played in the development of pro bono, as well as some of the challenges facing pro bono around the globe. The Seoul officials noted that South Korean lawyers are required to satisfy a mandatory minimum of pro bono hours every year or face a penalty. In addition, South Korean law provides lawyers as a civil right, but only if one is sued. This led to a discussion of unsatisfied legal needs for those who cannot afford a lawyer but do not meet the requirements to be assigned a lawyer, such as plaintiffs in civil matters.

This meeting is the latest in a series of conversations that PBI has had with lawyers and representatives from South Korea interested in pro bono, dating back to 2006. We are excited to stay engaged with the development of pro bono in South Korea, particularly in light of the number of global law firms that have opened offices in Seoul.

Stay tuned!

July 16, 2014

Television and Pro Bono: An Innovative Approach

How does one of the world’s premier entertainment brands engage its lawyers in pro bono?  It does what comes naturally and combines the medium of television with the unique skills of its legal department and production staff to make a difference to those in need around the globe.

viacom image

© MTV Staying Alive Foundation

In 2006, Kenya adopted the Sexual Offences Act, designed to combat gender-based violence. For several years after its passage, implementation of the law proved difficult as the new rights and obligations were not well-understood.  To increase public awareness of gender-based violence and the implications of the new law, the legal department of Viacom International Media Networks, a division of Viacom Inc.**, worked with the producers of its television program Shuga: Love, Sex, Money to incorporate important legal information into the storyline and leverage the program to educate the Kenyan community and viewers around the world.

The television show, which is shown on stations worldwide, is produced by MTV Networks Africa, The MTV Staying Alive Foundation and several other partners, and is part of a large multimedia campaign with a goal of achieving a generation free of HIV.  During the show’s pre-production phase, Viacom worked with Shearman & Sterling* and Lawyers Without Borders to research and analyze Kenyan case law so that they could then consult with the production team to structure a plotline regarding rape and draft materials for a public legal education campaign.  The Shuga pro bono team included lawyers from offices throughout Europe and the U.S., who collaborated across borders with each other and with NGOs in Kenya to develop legal messaging that would be relevant and accessible to the Kenyan public.

The public education materials produced by the team were designed using the characters and storyline from the television program and aimed to increase public understanding of gender violence and raise awareness of the Sexual Offences Act.  By identifying core messages for public education and drafting a resources section on sexual assault, content teams were able to effectively design a graphic novel and other non-traditional educational media using Shuga characters. The materials supplemented the television show so individuals unfamiliar with the program or without television could still access the information.  In addition, a “toolkit” that includes additional resources is available to Shuga partners, who work in and around Kenya.  The materials were made available online, marketed through the radio, referenced by lawyers and judges conducting trainings, and publicized through a Kenyan national newspaper, which ran the graphic novel as a serial.

This unique and innovative project dramatically expanded the impact of the pro bono work by partnering pro bono legal services with television and print media to spread legal education to an entire population.  It is an excellent example of how a legal department is able to contribute its unique legal skills to the community service efforts of the company as a whole, as well as the company’s products and services, and make a tremendous difference in the communities in which they operate.

Viacom Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary Michael D. Fricklas spoke about the pro bono efforts for Shuga and the potential impact of in-house pro bono at a recent meeting of in-house pro bono leaders in New York.  Fricklas notes,

I couldn’t be more proud of the work our lawyers have done on the Shuga project. They have been working on the scripts, editing story lines and reaching millions of people. Given Viacom’s global footprint, international pro bono is a big piece of our overall pro bono efforts. This project was also particularly interesting because it allowed us to collaborate with, and leverage the expertise of, colleagues around the world. As a media company, we have to figure out what the right opportunities are and we are lucky we had this opportunity to do something that is a little different. Lawyers within every industry can find special projects that reflect their particular strengths.


The PBEye can’t wait to hear more about this team’s upcoming project in Nigeria, which focuses on domestic violence and gender violence.

 

* denotes Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

July 9, 2014

Plans for Mandatory Pro Bono Service in Saudi Arabia

As recently reported in the Saudi Gazette, official sources from the Justice Ministry of Saudi Arabia have disclosed plans to impose mandatory pro bono requirements on the Kingdom’s lawyers. Under the Ministry’s new special statute, lawyers will be required to provide pro bono representation to at least nine poor persons per year.

Mandatory pro bono has been greatly debated in the U.S. PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent has noted that while bold steps must be taken to address the access to justice gap, philosophical and pragmatic reasons weigh against imposing mandatory pro bono in the U.S. at this time. PBI has endorsed a number of steps the legal profession can take, including “voluntary plus” pro bono, in which the U.S. system expects every lawyer to undertake pro bono unless they opt out, and acts accordingly. This is a fundamental shift in culture and perspective for the U.S., but is a change that falls short of mandating pro bono service.

The PBEye is acutely aware that different countries, cultures, and legal systems should experiment with different approaches to addressing gaps in access to justice unique to their situation; this new mandatory pro bono rule in Saudi Arabia is a development we will follow with interest. Under the change, service required will include provision of legal advice, defending clients in court, and following up on cases. Ministry sources noted that plans for the new program arose after visits to several EU countries and an assessment of their legal aid systems for the poor. The launch of Saudi Arabia’s program is intended to address the problem of low-income citizens in the Kingdom who are unable to pay the high costs of lawyers.

July 3, 2014

One New Zealand Law School’s New Hourly Requirement for Graduation

While mandating lawyers to participate in or report pro bono is a hotly debated topic these days, requiring law students to engage in pro bono has been more widely accepted in the U.S. A number of law schools require students to complete a certain number of hours of pro bono service before graduating. And as The PBEye previously reported, New York state recently implemented a rule which took effect on January 1, 2013, requiring prospective attorneys seeking admission to the bar to have first performed 50 hours of “law-related” pro bono service.

Jumping across the world to New Zealand, starting in 2015, the University of Canterbury Law School will implement a 100 hours of practical experience requirement for graduation, one which students can satisfy through either pro bono or paid work. As the law school’s dean, Dr. Chris Gallavin, has noted, the justice gap in New Zealand is “off the charts;” the pro bono dimension of this requirement will contribute to addressing this gap. In addition, The PBEye notes that pro bono work by students can develop them into higher quality recruits for employers, armed with practical experience such as schedule management and interacting with real world clients, a view Dr. Gallavin shares. Based on the “Harvard model,” graduation ceremonies at the University of Canterbury Law School will formally recognize students in two higher tiers: those who do more than 400 hours and those who do more than 750 hours of pro bono work. Such significant hourly targets set high expectations for students.

The PBEye is excited to follow this new development in pro bono work and its implications for increasing pro bono service in New Zealand.

June 27, 2014

Pro Bono in Hong Kong

This week, The PBEye turns its focus to the challenges and opportunities for pro bono in Hong Kong. There has been growing recognition in recent years that traditional legal aid alone does not suffice to address the need for legal services. Pro bono assistance to address this gap is often implemented to or through nonprofit partners, a task made easier by increased availability of clearinghouses which connect pro bono lawyers with NGOs in need of their skills. Local examples of pro bono provided to or in partnership with nonprofits include: Latham & Watkins*†, which worked with the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (relaunched as Justice Centre Hong Kong) to provide free legal advice and representation of those seeking refugee status; Reed Smith*†, which trained and participated in the Helpers for Domestic Helpers project, which hosts drop-in centers that offer free basic legal counselling and practical assistance to foreign domestic helpers working in Hong Kong; and K&L Gates*†, which advises Hong Kong-based Independent Schools Foundation (ISF) Academy, a bilingual K-12 school, on general legal matters, including agreement drafting and review, contracts matters, and capital notes.

Despite interest in pro bono, however, challenges to increased participation remain. PBI’s Global Pro Bono Project features a survey of pro bono in 71 jurisdictions, last updated in 2012 by Latham, which includes analysis of the pro bono landscape in Hong Kong. The survey found a mixed picture, with significant percentages of solicitors and barristers who did not participate in pro bono. Challenges to greater participation included lack of time and insufficient resources to dedicate to pro bono work. In addition, foreign lawyers and law firms are not allowed to advise on Hong Kong law, which precludes them from pro bono representation in Hong Kong courts.

Despite such findings, The PBEye is encouraged by increased public attention to the critical role of pro bono in Hong Kong, including the role lawyers can play in assisting the city’s nonprofit community to advance social justice.

denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

 

 

May 29, 2014

Marketplace of Pro Bono Ideas: Part 2

annual conference 2014The 2014 PBI Annual Conference featured three dynamic “Marketplace of Ideas” sessions, during which participants shared information on cutting-edge pro bono projects and attendees learned about new opportunities, offerings, infrastructure, and other creative and replicable pro bono developments.

The PBEye reported last week on some of the global projects featured during these sessions. Here are two more of the innovative projects that were highlighted:

Crime Victim Rights Advocacy
Heidi Naasko from Dykema Gossett*† described her experience advocating for the rights of crime victims and shined a spotlight on an area ripe for pro bono development. Under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, victims in federal criminal cases have various rights, such as the right to protection from the accused, the right to attend proceedings, and the right to restitution. While representing a group of Central American children involved in human trafficking, Naasko fought to ensure that her clients could be present at the sentencing of their trafficker and that they received restitution. Pro bono attorneys are vital in these cases because other players in the justice system may not properly defend the rights of a victim, or even be aware of them. Additionally, crime victims need attorneys who can take into consideration the depth of their losses and protect their interests with appropriate sensitivity.

In addition to being personally rewarding, representing victims offers tremendous professional development opportunities for litigators. Potential cases can be found through the courts or the National Crime Victim Law Institute.

Name Change Project
Michael Silverman discussed the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s (TLDEF) innovative Name Change Project, which helps transgender people overcome the legal obstacles to securing a name change. For many transgender people, obtaining a legal name change is an important step toward making their legal identities match lived experience, but interaction with the court system and judges is a foreign and intimidating experience for many people. A lack of appropriate identity documents can deter people from applying for jobs, school, and public benefits, and can lead to discrimination. By providing eligible individuals with pro bono legal representation, the Project ensures that clients can successfully complete the process and move forward with their lives.

While the initiative was small in scale at first, more than 30 law firms and legal departments are now involved. The work is an attractive pro bono opportunity for many lawyers, both litigators and non-litigators, since it is a time-limited commitment. The Project is currently expanding beyond New York to Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

***

Check out the full recap of the 2014 Marketplace of Ideas sessions in the May 2014 edition of The Pro Bono Wire! We look forward to learning more and sharing other replicable ideas and projects at the 2015 PBI Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., on March 4-6.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

    Older Posts >