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In 2005, Joshua Koltun, a partner in the San Francisco office of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, was looking for new challenges and an opportunity to get involved in worthy causes. At the same time, DLA Piper had just founded New Perimeter, an affiliated nonprofit that does international pro bono work. Koltun, who had always been interested in human rights, decided to apply for a position on a project helping to support the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, an African human rights organization. A year later, Koltun spent three months on the ground in Johannesburg working to provide litigation support for lawyers bringing human rights lawsuits in nine southern African countries. “It was a terrific opportunity to work with African lawyers and to learn how they practice law,” Koltun says. “And working and researching law in foreign jurisdictions and on international human rights principles forced me to revisit my assumptions and expand my thinking and my flexibility as a lawyer.” A NEW TYPE OF PRO BONO Spending this much time abroad in places like Johannesburg working on human rights issues is not a typical pro bono project for a lawyer at a major law firm, but DLA Piper is working to change that. As a newly merged law firm that brought together one London-based and two U.S.-based firms, DLA Piper created New Perimeter so the firm’s lawyers could participate in pro bono projects on a larger scale. DLA Piper enlisted teams of six to eight lawyers to provide legal support for projects of global concern, including health care, hunger, housing, economic development, law reform, and human rights. Establishing an affiliated nonprofit for this purpose was a first for a major U.S. law firm. DLA Piper committed 13,000 pro bono hours to New Perimeter in the affiliate’s first year and has since expanded the commitment. Generally, lawyers participating on New Perimeter projects devote between 250 and 1,000 hours per year to them. After researching areas where there was a great need for pro bono work, New Perimeter decided to focus a significant amount of time on Africa. For one of its initial projects, New Perimeter chose to help the SALC. The organization, which was created by the International Bar Association and the Open Society Institute of Southern Africa, was launched June 20, 2005, to provide research and litigation support to lawyers bringing human rights lawsuits in nine southern African countries. The commitment was an important one to make, as the SALC has a limited staff and budget. Initially, New Perimeter supported the work of the SALC by doing research on behalf of African lawyers using the SALC for assistance in bringing human rights cases. DLA Piper lawyers throughout the United States and Europe could provide this type of research support from their respective offices. A team of lawyers in DLA Piper’s London office, for example, drafted a human rights litigation manual for the organization that set out the important documents and principles used in bringing human rights cases. Meanwhile, several DLA Piper lawyers in the United States focused on establishing an online library for the SALC, which will streamline access to human rights-related legislation and regulations throughout the nine countries in which the SALC works. After almost a year of providing research-based assistance to the SALC, David Nachman, the head of the New Perimeter project team and a litigation partner in DLA Piper’s New York office, traveled to Johannesburg to meet with Nicole Fritz, the SALC’s executive director. Fritz is a lawyer who formerly clerked for Justice Richard Goldstone during his tenure on South Africa’s Constitutional Court. While there, Nachman decided that a more effective way to support the SALC in its mission would be to place a DLA Piper lawyer there for several months at a time. DLA Piper’s presence on the ground would allow the team to more fully participate in the work of the SALC. The DLA Piper lawyer would work alongside Fritz and the SALC’s limited staff in providing support to African lawyers. In addition, the DLA Piper lawyer could act as a liaison between the SALC and members of the New Perimeter team operating from their home offices. The on-the-ground presence would mean that research projects that came up could immediately be sent to a U.S.-based lawyer for completion and would thus facilitate the assignment of research projects to those back in the United States. That’s where Koltun came in. He was an original member of the New Perimeter SALC team, and he applied to spend April to July 2006 in residence in Johannesburg. Working on the ground there proved to be not only a rich and challenging experience for Koltun but also a benefit to both the SALC and the New Perimeter project. “It added something to our understanding of the work we were doing to be there on the ground in Johannesburg and to visit some of the countries in which we were working,” Koltun says. “We were able to observe court proceedings and to meet with lawyers,” which, he says, gave him new perspectives on practicing law in Africa. It also helped New Perimeter provide direct assistance to African lawyers using the SALC, rather than having to communicate through e-mails and deal with distance and time differences. “There were times when we had to respond quickly to developments, and it was helpful to have one of us on site, ready to pitch in,” Koltun says. For example, Koltun helped a Zimbabwean lawyer with his suit on behalf of the Law Society of Zimbabwe. The Law Society was challenging a statute that allowed people to be detained without bail for 21 days for certain offenses. During an argument, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe questioned the Law Society’s standing to bring the suit and requested a brief on the subject. The lawyer, Stenford Moyo, called the SALC, and Koltun was able to respond to his request immediately. Overall, Koltun says, the work he did in Johannesburg was “immensely satisfying because the laws of many fundamental issues are still in their infancy and there is a unique opportunity to help shape the development of countries throughout this region.” In July, when Koltun returned to San Francisco, Maran Turner, an associate from DLA Piper’s San Diego office, replaced him. Turner has already assisted African lawyers on several projects, including researching the constitutionality of an electoral law in Zambia for a case that is now pending before a Zambian court. She will be followed by another lawyer in the fall. ON THE GROUND An on-the-ground presence seems to be crucial for many New Perimeter projects because it enables DLA Piper lawyers to provide more effective help to the client organization or group. Despite the new electronic age, DLA Piper lawyers are finding that nothing substitutes for meeting clients face to face and being there to interact with the organizations New Perimeter may be partnering with. And the in-country work for New Perimeter projects also provides a more enriching and challenging experience for the lawyers working on it. The first project New Perimeter took on was to assist the United Nations peacekeeping mission and the Kosovars in designing an independent judiciary and system of prosecution for Kosovo. For this undertaking, lawyers from DLA Piper’s Copenhagen and Madrid offices worked with attorneys from the New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Tampa offices. The DLA Piper lawyers on the Kosovo team traveled to Kosovo dozens of times and spent 4,500 hours on the project in the first year. New Perimeter has now begun a second phase of the Kosovo project in which DLA Piper lawyers will provide mentoring to key staff in Kosovo’s fledgling Ministry of Justice. New Perimeter and DLA Piper also have assisted the Global Fund, helping to create an Office of the Inspector General to oversee the Global Fund’s grant-disbursement program and to prevent waste and mismanagement of the funds; CHF International, in expanding its innovative microfinance programs; and America’s Second Harvest, in creating an international food-banking network to tackle hunger in developing countries. A year and a half after its creation, New Perimeter remains committed to providing opportunities for DLA Piper lawyers in global pro bono projects. And for DLA Piper, this means engaging lawyers from its offices around the globe to work together whenever possible. DLA Piper is currently reviewing possible projects focusing on the environment and economic development. In all cases, DLA Piper will seek to have its lawyers, like Joshua Koltun, directly involved on the ground — where the problems exist.
Sheldon Krantz is a partner with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and the founder and executive director of New Perimeter. Susan Zentay is the New Perimeter program coordinator.

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