The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

Global Pro Bono

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.

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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

May 21, 2014

2014 Pro Bono Marketplace of Ideas: Global

The 2014 PBI Annual Conference featured three fast-paced “Marketplace of Ideas” sessions, including one dedicated to global pro bono projects. During these sessions, participants shared experiences and attendees learned about new opportunities, offerings, and other global pro bono developments.

The PBEye is pleased to share these ideas with the hope that they may serve to guide and inspire others to think creatively, strategically, and collaboratively about future pro bono projects. A few of the projects featured include:

Submissions to U.N. on Behalf of Nonprofits

Dianne Heins of Faegre Baker Daniels*† discussed her firm’s work in bringing international attention to human rights issues through submissions of human rights reports at the U.N. The goal is to expand the capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to advocate at the U.N. on these issues.

Faegre works with civil society groups to help prepare and submit a stakeholders report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. This report informs a dialogue in which Council members question the country’s representatives on their human rights record.

In addition, Faegre recently submitted three reports on Cameroon in connection with its review under The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

International Legal Network

Anne-Françoise Meeùs discussed her role as coordinator of the International Legal Network (ILN) of Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF). ASF has changed its focus from direct pro bono representation of individual clients in Africa to capacity-building of local NGOs so they can provide quality legal services to serve local needs. ILN projects involve lawyers in larger ongoing ASF projects. It’s not just a case of participating in a one-time training but rather a training event that continues through a larger project financed by institutional donors such as UKAID, USAID, or EU.

Genocide Prevention and Holocaust-Looted Art

Owen Pell of White & Case*† discussed several pro bono projects he has been working on in genocide prevention and Holocaust-looted property, particularly art. Pell described the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), the main organization recognized by the U.N. for genocide prevention.

Pell noted that Holocaust looting, including Holocaust-looted art, is an area where pro bono lawyers can make a big difference. His work has included proposals for title-clearing and a dispute resolution entity to address claims relating to Holocaust-looted art.

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Look out for more information on other innovative pro bono projects featured during our Marketplace of Ideas session in the May 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. We invite those wishing to serve as presenters to submit brief proposals in advance describing their initiatives to ensure adequate planning and capacity. Please send submissions to Law Firm Pro Bono Project Director Tammy Taylor (due to time limitations, we may not be able to accept all proposals).

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

May 9, 2014

Webinar Recap: Human Trafficking

Human TraffickingLast week, PBI hosted the first in our “Best of the 2014 PBI Annual Conference” series of webinars “Pro Bono in Practice: Human Trafficking.” The panel consisted of Patrick Rickerfor, global pro bono manager at White & Case LLP*†; Hilary Axam, director of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, U.S. Department of Justice; Jeanne Cohn-Connor, partner at Kirkland & Ellis*†; and Martina Vandenberg, president and founder of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.

Setting the framework for the discussion, Axam noted that “trafficking” is a misnomer, as it does not require “movement.” Trafficking requires coercion, forcing a victim to engage in activities such as commercial sex work or forced labor. The coercion can often be psychological rather than physical and not necessarily involve the “chains and shackles” portrayals of Hollywood movies.

According to Axam and Vandenberg, pro bono counsel play a critical role in combating human trafficking because it is only when victims feel safe and ready to come forward to law enforcement that prosecution can take place. But victims often have other needs, including a “buffet” of civil legal needs, which must be addressed before prosecution is pursued. This is where the private bar can play a uniquely important role. For example, victims may need immigration assistance or estate planning to ensure the flow of money to their children should something happen to them before they feel comfortable seeking assistance.

Rickerfor highlighted the tremendous attorney interest his firm tapped into when it began working on human trafficking. The firm has had approximately 300 of its attorneys working on a variety of human trafficking projects, including creation of a global trafficking database. Rickerfor emphasized that this subject represents an opportunity for lawyers within a firm to collaborate from their offices around the world as well as include transactional attorneys.

Vandenberg discussed how pro bono assistance in this quest for justice can be emotionally rewarding for attorneys because, as she put it, it is moving to watch a client walk off the witness stand as if they have “grown two feet” after telling the judge their story. Vandenberg’s organization provides firms or legal departments with free CLE training in human trafficking during a firm or department-provided lunch.

Cohn-Connor echoed the point that there are a variety of ways to participate and that one need not be a litigator. Types of work in this area include legislative advocacy, a 50 state survey or direct representation of victims. Sources of opportunities for Cohn-Connor’s firm included Sanctuary for Families, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Legal Momentum, and the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project.

Vandenberg’s closing remarks emphasized what a remarkable time this is to work on trafficking given the interest in this issue by the federal government.

Missed it? Don’t worry, the program is available on-demand. In-house participants should contact CPBO Project Assistant Eric Florenz for registration information. Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member law firms should contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson for the promotional code to register. CLE credit is also available for this program in many states.

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

 

April 16, 2014

Making a Case for Pro Bono

For over a decade, PBI has promoted the “business case” for pro bono. Indeed, PBI’s research suggests that the benefits of pro bono outweigh the costs of starting and maintaining a pro bono program. In particular, pro bono engagement can help a law firm or legal department recruit and retain talent, develop the professional skills of its attorneys, and increase employee engagement.  This is a case PBI reiterated for law firms in a 2010 law review article and for in-house departments in a 2013 paper. So The PBEye was heartened to see the business case argument compellingly made this month in a piece by Jim Middlemiss in the Canadian Lawyer. As Paul Belanger, co-chair of the Financial Services Regulatory group and co-chair of the firm’s pro bono committee at Blake Cassels & Graydon  bluntly notes, “We’re in a war for talent. Young people want to be able to do something that is meaningful to them. You need to offer a robust pro bono program.”

Photo: Sara Tyson

Photo: Sara Tyson

The article cites four interest-based reasons for how law firms and legal departments can improve their performance while also doing good for society via pro bono:

  1. Better recruitment: Currently, most high school students are required to volunteer to secure their diploma. Attracting talent requires responding to this volunteering seed planted during their school days.
  2. Improved retention and training: Pro bono can provide opportunities for skills development and an opportunity for rewarding work — benefits which may reduce associate attrition and its significant economic costs.
  3. Corporate social responsibility: Canadian companies are increasingly involved in community initiatives, and their general counsels are examining metrics such as diversity and gender when choosing to hire law firms. Such metrics may increasingly include pro bono service. Firms that fail to engage in pro bono risk losing out on such selective clients.
  4. Increased profile and profitability: Middlemiss, citing PBI’s original 2000 paper, “Making the Business Case for Pro Bono,” notes that a major law firm’s managing partner quoted in that paper highlighted that every dollar spent on pro bono generated 10 times that value in good publicity and heightened visibility for the law firm.

Middlemiss closes with an urgent conclusion — there’s a survival case to be made for pro bono, so do it if you want your firm to stay in business.  A strong sentiment, but one with which The PBEye can agree!

March 28, 2014

Guest Blog: Pro Bono Legal Advice Opens the Tap to Provide Clean Water

Yasmin Batliwala  Chief Executive, A4ID  Yasmin.Batliwala@a4id.org

Yasmin Batliwala
Chief Executive, A4ID
Yasmin.Batliwala@a4id.org

March 22 marked the commemoration of World Water Day, an opportunity to focus public attention on critical issues relating to water. A key issue concerns the fact that 768 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water. Millions of people around the world are forced to choose between having to travel great distances to collect clean water or to drink water which is contaminated. Neither option is ideal. Children (and girls in particular) are often withdrawn from school to collect water for their families. And the consequences of drinking dirty water, as we already know, can lead to outbreaks of deadly waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

Another critical issue is the provision of sanitation facilities such as a hygienic toilet and water for hand washing. It is hard to imagine life without a toilet in this day and age, but for 2.5 billion people this is their reality. In the absence of adequate latrines, not only are diseases spread but people’s dignity is compromised. Additionally, rapid urban growth in developing countries is bringing new challenges as water pipes and sewage systems become overburdened.

Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are essential in order for people to lead healthy and dignified lives. To this end, the UN has formally recognised that affordable, accessible, and safe water is a basic human right. Moreover, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are aimed at galvanizing the international community to halve the number of people living in poverty, also recognize the importance of the right of access to clean, safe drinking water.

Our own work at A4ID focuses on the achievement of the MDGs and we source pro bono legal advice for development organizations working towards meeting at least one of the eight MDGs. For instance we have secured pro bono legal advice for our development partners such as WaterAid and Oxfam who are working on large-scale water projects. Furthermore, A4ID has worked specifically with U.S. law firms to provide pro bono legal advice to organizations such as The BARKA Foundation, which works in Burkina Faso. The Foundation has drilled wells, built toilets and conducted a hygiene promotion campaign. This is important work, as Burkina Faso is one of the most water-stressed nations on our planet, with high rates of waterborne diseases.

The BARKA Foundation has now received assistance from U.S. based law firms. By providing pro bono legal advice, these law firms enabled the Foundation to establish a partnership with a Ghanaian water filter factory. The BARKA Foundation also received pro bono legal advice from U.S. law firm Dechert*. The advice concerned an investment opportunity which posed risks, that the BARKA Foundation would have been unable to access on their own.

A well in Lampiadi, Burkina Faso, being drilled days before its scheduled official opening to the public on World Water Day. Photo: The BARKA Foundation

A well in Lampiadi, Burkina Faso, being drilled days before its scheduled official opening to the public on World Water Day. Photo: The BARKA Foundation

Mobilising the law and lawyers to help fight poverty is A4ID’s mission. Consider becoming involved and helping in this way.

Yasmin Batliwala
Chief Executive, A4ID
Yasmin.Batliwala@a4id.org
* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®

 

February 28, 2014

Global Pro Bono: Best Practices – March 6

This is the last of a series of posts detailing upcoming 2014 PBI Annual Conference sessions focused on global pro bono practice.  Having previously focused on international elements of the Pro Bono Expo Lunch and the new “Marketplace of Ideas: Global” session, we now turn to a recurring global pro bono favorite, the “Global Pro Bono: Best Practices” session.  This session is back by popular demand following successful iterations of this particular global session in 2012 and 2011 as well as a history of global pro bono-oriented sessions dating back to the inception of the Annual Conference.

This session takes place on Thursday, March 6, at 4:00 p.m., and will explore the practical nuts and bolts of turning a global pro bono concept into a reality.  Emphasis will be placed on the methodology of vetting and securing global pro bono projects.  If you have an idea for a new global pro bono project but are uncertain as to how to move forward, you won’t want to miss it!

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