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After you’ve snuck into Burma to meet with an elected opposition leader under house arrest and crossed the Western Sahara by camel to support indigenous peoples’ struggle for independence from Morocco, hosting an international law conclave is not very daunting. Even when you’re getting the Dalai Lama together with a bunch of U.S. business leaders to ponder international investment in China and Tibet. For Gare Smith, counsel at the Washington, D.C., office of Boston’s Foley, Hoag and Eliot, it all comes with the territory. A senior foreign policy adviser to Senator Edward Kennedy beginning in the late 1980s and a deputy assistant secretary for human rights in the Clinton State Department, Smith went on to become vice president responsible for global human rights at Levi Strauss & Co. in 1999. Plying his trade for Foley Hoag since March of this year, Smith has become a leader in the fledgling field of “international risk management and corporate social responsibility.” The practice is growing, as multinational corporations become increasingly concerned about meeting the demands of foreign and international law, bilateral treaties, and the consuming public. Like many in this budding business, Smith has been involved in human rights work in one capacity or another for quite some time. As an associate at the Washington, D.C., office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld from 1985 to 1989, Smith did pro bono work for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and the International Human Rights Law Group, among others. From there he went to work for Senator Kennedy, and joined the State Department in 1995. Smith’s move to the private sector when he joined Levi’s reflected a larger shift among U.S. corporations that are expanding globally and that sometimes now perceive self-interest in the incorporation of human rights policies. Although he left Levi’s to join Foley nine months ago, he still advises U.S. businesses — and foreign governments — on compliance with labor, international trade, and human rights law. “Ten years ago, if a company went into country X and simply abided by the law of that country, it was fine. But now they worry, ‘What if X hasn’t developed law yet on environmental or labor issues?’ Technically, you’re abiding by the law, but as a practical matter you’re going to be held to a higher standard. You’re going to be held to an international norm.” Smith helps companies meet that norm, hoping to keep them not only in compliance with the law, but above the possibility of public censure. That’s done in part by drafting voluntary codes of conduct and advising companies on the consequences of joining groups such as the Fair Labor Association. Despite the costs, Smith says increasingly, companies see such efforts as in their best interest: “Having a positive brand image associated with doing good things is a competitive advantage.” Scott Greathead agrees. A corporate litigation partner at New York’s Howe & Addington, Greathead spends about a quarter of his time running WorldMonitors, which provides information and consulting to corporations and nonprofits about human rights situations around the world. Like Smith, Greathead began as an ambitious New York law firm associate. While at the now-defunct Lord, Day & Lord, he cofounded the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in 1978, and has remained active with the group ever since. Greathead started WorldMonitors when he saw the increasing potential for multinational corporations to influence human rights abroad: “Four or five years ago, a lot of people perceived that governments were becoming less important, and business was becoming more important to the human rights agenda.” Elliot Schrage has been promoting that notion for a decade. The former Sullivan & Cromwell associate helped create and teach a course on multinational business and human rights at Columbia Business School. Now senior vice president for global affairs for The Gap, Inc., Schrage has had his hand in human rights work ever since he was a student at Harvard Law School in the mid-1980s. After spending a semester investigating human rights in Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, he joined Sullivan & Cromwell, but with the understanding that he be able to do significant pro bono work there. He did that by reporting on human rights conditions in Latin America and Haiti for the Lawyers Committee. Schrage saw his teaching after leaving Sullivan & Cromwell as a way of advancing human rights within the explosion of international economic activity. “The future of the human rights movement required it to move beyond the small community of lawyers and human rights activists and into the mainstream of economic, social, and political life,” he says. While an adjunct professor, Schrage was also a management consultant at Clark & Weinstock Inc., where, in addition to doling out the usual advice on efficiency, he advised companies and industries on labor practices. That took him to Pakistan, where he helped the international sports-equipment industry stop the employment of children there to stitch soccer balls. Schrage predicts a growing demand for lawyers with an understanding of international human rights standards in the private sector. “More and more companies that are seriously trying to intergrate the concept of social responsibility into their business practices are seeking professionals to help them manage that process,” says Schrage. “Lawyers are ideally suited to help them understand what international law means and how to incorporate it into their day-to-day global operations.”

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