Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is not an easy place to do business. Fourteen years of civil war have left most of the city without electricity or running water. (Government offices and some businesses use less-than-reliable generators.) The rutted roads are dirt, and they turn to mud in the city’s pelting rains. The literacy rate is only 25 percent, so qualified support staff is hard to find. And doing it yourself is a laborious option: Just to communicate by e-mail, government officials have to go out to an Internet cafe and use a Yahoo account.
These are not the sort of conditions that corporate lawyers from Cravath, Swaine & Moore are accustomed to. Fortunately for Cravath partner Joel Herold and his colleagues, the firm’s agreement to assist the government of Liberia in its negotiations with Mittal Steel Company N.V., the world’s largest steel company, didn’t actually require them to go there. Instead, top Liberian officials came to them — and Herold and his associates tackled this pro bono project, involving round-the-clock negotiations over the course of about five months (Cravath lawyers spent 750 hours on the project), in one of Cravath’s well-appointed conference rooms in midtown Manhattan.
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