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When lawyers take pro bono cases, they don’t usually encounter the stuff of spy novels. For Latham & Watkins associates Steven Schulman and Wendy Atrokhov, the asylum case of Khassan Baiev — with a dash of international intrigue and a late-night escape from Moscow — was the exception. From a legal standpoint, the asylum case, referred to Latham’s Washington, D.C., office by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, was straightforward — albeit high-profile. “The tricky thing is that, among other things, you have to be persecuted for racial or political reasons to be granted asylum,” explains Schulman, a seventh-year who has worked on about 16 asylum cases pro bono. “You can’t just come from a war-torn country.” Baiev, a Chechen surgeon, fit the bill. The moving battle line, as Chechen rebels fought Russians, put Baiev’s hospital in one side’s territory or the other at various times. He took a humanitarian stance — he was saving lives regardless of which army they belonged to — so both sides eventually accused him of treason, threatening and imprisoning him, and even bombing his hospital. After Physicians for Human Rights helped him to secure a visa, Baiev entered the United States legally in April 2000. Three months and 250 pro bono hours later, Schulman and Atrokhov won asylum for him from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. But that was just the beginning. Schulman and Atrokhov’s true challenge came when they helped to get Baiev’s family out of Chechnya. “In a case like this, your consequences tend to be larger,” says Atrokhov. “There was a lot of pressure because the [Russian] government was after the family.” First, a rapidly expedited petition was needed. Schulman and Atrokhov were able to secure approval quickly, in December, largely because the case had captured the attention of the American media when Baiev was one of five people to receive an annual award from Human Rights Watch. What came next proved more daunting: the race to get Baiev’s family to the U.S. “If I didn’t have a colleague who knows all these facts [about Russia and Chechnya], I don’t know what we would have done,” Schulman says of Atrokhov, a second-year associate who lived in Russia and whose husband is Kazakhstani. She knew, for example, that Russian law forbids anyone to remain in Moscow for more than three days without a permit. Atrokhov helped others who had been active in Baiev’s case arrange a flight to the U.S. for Baiev’s wife and five children from Moscow via Poland, disguising their reason for leaving. She also made sure they didn’t dally in Moscow. Schulman and Atrokhov’s year of efforts on behalf of the Baievs ended in February, when the family arrived safely in New York. Now living quietly in Vermont, Baiev has begun work on a book. Schulman and Atrokhov have no doubt earned a chapter.

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