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When Reed Smithassociate Jason Matechak visited Bangladesh’s Legal Education Training Institute in early 2001, he found the law library littered with incomplete law review volumes and Australian law books. “I made a mental note to myself at the time that if I ever found a way to provide legal materials to these people, I would,” Matechak says. The institute, he explains, is the Bangladesh equivalent of both the American Bar Association and the state bar accreditation board, and yet it had very limited resources. Matechak visited Bangladesh as part of his work with the Rome-based International Development Law Organization (IDLO). The group trains lawyers in over 150 countries, including Bangladesh. Matechak, 35, serves on the group’s U.S. board of directors. Matechak returned from Bangladesh to Reed Smith’s D.C. office to find that much of the firm’s Northern Virginia office law library was slated to be stored away or discarded. He suggested donating the books to the institute instead. With the firm’s approval, Matechak organized the donation. He contacted Barrister Amir Ul-Islam, who is bar counsel at the institute — and the author of Bangladesh’s Declaration of Independence and its Constitution — for approval on the receiving end. Winston & StrawnD.C. partner Barry Hart, another member of the IDLO’s U.S. board, remembers receiving Matechak’s phone call. “That’s a splendid idea,” Hart recalls saying. “Let me see if we have some excess law books here as well.” The duo ultimately donated nearly 3,000 law volumes, including American Jurisprudence,Supreme Court reporters, and American Law Reports.The 3,400-pound shipment arrived in Bangladesh in October. Matechak says the IDLO-USA paid nearly $2,000 for shipping. “For us it was a small thing to do, but to them it will make a huge difference in their ability to conduct research,” Matechak says. The institute has since inaugurated a new law library. “I think their work represents a core around which we hope to build up a larger commitment of the legal community,” says William Loris, co-founder and director general of the IDLO. Bangladesh, he says, was unlikely to have the means to adequately stock its own law library. Matechak and Hart are now arranging a shipment of donated law books to Nepal and have begun an informal initiative through the District of Columbia Bar’s Young Lawyers Division to gather more books to donate to English-speaking developing countries with a common law tradition. Their partner in the project is Reed Smith D.C. associate Andrew Hurst. The organization, Loris says, relies on the “outside expertise and creative synergy” of attorneys such as Hart and Matechak for several of its projects. In addition to recruiting attorneys and legal scholars to teach, Loris notes, the IDLO is also launching an electronic library and seeking contributions of sample contracts, agreements, and written scholarship to post on the site. Matechak differentiates his IDLO work from the traditional pro bono representation. “We’re not standing up in court advocating individual rights,” he says. “But what we’re trying to do is work with an organization that promotes social and economic development, and in my mind, that’s some of the best pro bono I think I can do.” FAMILY COUNSELING Steptoe & Johnsonpublic service counsel Barbara Kagan recalls sitting in a D.C. courtroom waiting for her client’s case to be called and watching a grandmother trying to get custody of her grandchildren, who were abandoned. The woman, Kagan says, was on her own: She had no lawyer and seemed to understand neither the judge nor the ramifications of the proceedings. “You’d love to run out into the hall and explain these things to her, but you can’t really do this,” Kagan says. Now, after championing a successful six-month pilot project at the D.C. Family Court, she can. The Self-Help Center, a court program that facilitates pro serepresentation, officially opened in the Family Court Division of the D.C. Superior Court in April, with the help of Kagan and numerous volunteers. Unrepresented members of the public are referred to the center by the clerk’s office or a judge in cases involving family law. The center doesn’t provide substantive legal advice or counsel on specific cases, says Kagan. Instead, the center’s employees, who include attorneys, paralegals, and law students, aim to educate referrees on court procedures. The goal is to enable them to “go forth on a pro sebasis with a lot more success and confidence,” says Kagan, who serves as one of the center’s volunteer attorneys. Steptoe & Johnson was the only private firm involved with the creation of the center. The D.C. Bar’s Family Law Section and Pro Bono Program also participated, along with the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia and its charitable foundation. Valerie Despres, an attorney with the D.C. Bar Family Law Section, estimates the center counseled 232 people during its pilot phase. Kagan says the center, which already has a staff of 70, is actively recruiting and training new volunteers. The center is holding a training session on May 5 at D.C. Superior Court. VIEQUES VICTORIOUS On May 1, the U.S. Navy permanently closed its base on the small but populated Puerto Rican island of Vieques, which it used for bombing practice since 1941. Hughes Hubbard & Reedassociate Flavio Cumpiano was there to celebrate. Cumpiano, who works out of Hughes Hubbard’s D.C. office, has been representing the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques pro bono for four years. Among other goals, the committee was dedicated to demilitarizing the island. “I wanted to give them a voice here in Washington,” says the 35-year-old Puerto Rican native. That voice paid off when Congress finally authorized the Navy to close its Vieques base in 2002. Much of Cumpiano’s work was of the hit-the-pavement variety: lobbying Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and the White House, including a face-to-face meeting with then-President Bill Clinton. He also managed to garner the support of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and the Dalai Lama. “It took a little longer than we thought,” he says. “But four years ago it seemed like an insurmountable task . . . and now the military is leaving.” WHAT’S OLD IS NEW On April 22, the Chevy Chase neighborhood’s historic Avalon Theatre welcomed its first patrons in over two years, after the community rallied its resources for its reopening. Nixon PeabodyD.C. partner Debra Yogodzinski was one of the Chevy Chase residents who made the reopening of the 80-year-old theater a reality. In fact, Yogodzinski admits, she initially did not want to participate in the project because it seemed “like a real long shot.” The Avalon Theatre Project called on her expertise as a real estate and transactions lawyer. Yogodzinski and Arlington-based Kastle Systems International General Counsel Edward Berkowitz negotiated the leases, reviewed tax and grant documents, and tended to general corporate matters. “We would’ve broken the bank if we had to pay for that ourselves,” says project Chairman Bob Zich. “We were very well represented.” CELEBRATING BY GIVING Both Winston & Strawn and Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgeraldare celebrating anniversaries this year by giving back to the communities in which they have offices. As part of Winston & Strawn’s 150th anniversary, their D.C. office is partnering with Science and Engineering Alliance Inc. — a nonprofit consortium of black colleges — to create the Winston & Strawn Education Training Institute. The institute will focus on training D.C. teachers and increasing minority college admissions among D.C. students. Winston & Strawn D.C. partner Thomas Poindexter also serves on SEA’s board of directors. The firm chose SEA, Poindexter says, “to educate the students that science is another option for them.” This summer, the new institute will train public school teachers at Howard University’s Pre-Professional Summer Enrichment Program and build a playground. Poindexter hopes the program will bring science to a level of interest equal to that of English, history, or even sports. Winston & Strawn is also offering scholarships of approximately $10,000 to first-year minority applicants at Georgetown University Law Center, Columbia Law School, the Northwestern University School of Law, and the University of California Los Angeles School of Law. The firm has also asked all attorneys to pledge 35 pro bono hours in 2003, to any effort of their choosing. As one way of commemorating its 25th anniversary, Tysons Corner’s Watt, Tieder began working with Habitat for Humanity in Northern Virginia in March, assisting with the construction of a Fairfax townhouse. A crew of 15 lawyers, paralegals, and support staff did everything from cleaning to finishing the framework. The construction litigation firm is also planning to participate in the D.C. Building Industry Association Community Involvement Day in September to help build a youth center in the metro D.C. area. In addition, the firm expects to participate in the Adopt-a-Family program later this year. “It’s great because we get to network with a lot of our clients and we get to know each other a lot better,” says Watt, Tieder Marketing Director Paula Richmond Bollinger. “That’s what I love about these projects.” UNPAID PIPERS Piper Rudnick‘s Pro Bono Committee recognized New York associate Dana Lumsden and D.C. associate Louis Rouleau for “exceptional” pro bono work in 2002. Lumsden, 34, helped coordinate work for the victims and survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks. He also helped secure a partnership with South Brooklyn Legal Services and mentors students from low-income families. Rouleau, 33, represented John Cronin, a U.S. citizen held hostage in Beirut in 1984, in a case against the Iranian government that resulted in an award of roughly $300 million. He also trains D.C. Department of Corrections personnel on sexual harassment. Lumsden, as a senior associate, received $10,000 as an award from the firm. Rouleau, a junior associate, was awarded $5,000. “Pro Bono Bulletin Board” appears on the first Monday of every month. Alicia Upano can be reached at [email protected].

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