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Christina Storm’s interest in travel began after a haughty college admissions interviewer belittled her for not understanding what “going abroad” meant. Storm grew up in a modest home in Bristol, Conn., and had never been outside the U.S. But the interviewer’s snub prompted Storm’s grandmother to take Storm out of high school for a month to travel with her to Europe. After she had visited places like Paris and Rome, Storm’s grandmother told her she would never again have to feel insecure about her upbringing or travel experience. Three decades and several countries later, Christina Storm has turned a passion for travel and international relations into a full-time job. Storm has started an international nonprofit organization — Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) — a clearing house for attorneys who want to get involved with foreign work. Storm honed her sophistication about international politics during a working trip to the Middle East. She performed legal work and lived in East Jerusalem last year during a Palestinian Intifada uprising. Her first day on the job, she had a machine gun pointed at her head while trying to cross the border. “It was an exercise in learning great self control,” Storm, 48, said about working on a family law project in the country. “The biggest challenge, especially for an older attorney, was being away from my family.” Storm, a partner with Hartford, Conn.’s Byrne & Storm, has traveled to the Middle East and beyond to see if there was a need for an organization like LWOB. “We wanted to make sure the venture was worthwhile,” she said. Based on similar organizations in other fields, like Doctors Without Borders, LWOB helps connect attorneys and law students with nonprofit organizations worldwide to help promote the use of conflict resolution, mediation, and other legal skills in peacemaking, human rights and government-building efforts. It is the first attorney-based organization in the United States to perform such work globally, Storm said, still astonished that such efforts had not been acted upon before now. Her idea “has moved more quickly in New York,” Storm said. “But Connecticut is my home. I would like this to be a Connecticut-born project. The average Hartford lawyer probably has more grassroots experience to work with a villager in Kosovo than a corporate lawyer living in Manhattan.” Lawyers can become involved in a number of ways, from taking a sabbatical to performing legal work in a different country to volunteering their time by lobbying, drafting laws, or performing other legal tasks for nongovernmental organizations [NGO's]. The lawyers who take “assignments” with NGOs and nonprofits may do it under various circumstances, Storm said, depending upon the position and source of funding. Compensation for assignments range from a living stipend with travel expenses to a fully paid position at a competitive salary, with travel included. On the other hand, the venture may be entirely pro bono, with all costs borne by the lawyer. Storm said the LWOB is in the process of soliciting funds from the legal community and from corporations, foundations and other organizations for law student internships. In fact, one goal of the LWOB is to raise $150,000 to fund salaries for a director and support staff by the end of the year. Since starting the organization, Storm has been “framing the mission” of LWOB by creating the organization’s nonprofit status, researching opportunities for lawyers, creating a Web site that allows her to communicate with overseas organizations, and forming a board of directors. Members of the current board include Storm, her husband and legal partner, James Byrne; Houston Putnam Lowry, of Meriden, Conn.’s Brown & Welsh; Peter W. Schroth, a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Pamela Fahey, a Stratford, Conn., solo; Rupal Shah Palanki of Bingham Dana; and James Sullivan of New York’s Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt. The International Section of the CBA and the New York Law School have each supported LWOB. Lowry, also a former chairman of the Connecticut Bar Association’s International Section, said LWOB was similar to the American Bar Association’s Central and East European Law Initiative. The local project, however, seemed to cross more geographic boundaries. “It is surprising this [LWOB] has not been done before,” Lowry said. “The international community needs qualified people to help them out.” In its relatively short existence, Lawyers Without Borders has shown signs of success. Its Web site — www.Lawyerswithoutborders.org– has had 7,000 hits since January, many of which came from 44 foreign countries. Canadian attorneys have raved about LWOB and asked to know how to get more involved. Attorneys from Africa have requested LWOB’s help in finding lawyers to help prosecute sexual abuse cases. An organization in Kosovo has asked for pro bono representation for a Rwandan national arrested on suspicion of committing war crimes. Storm, who has wrapped up her family law practice, said she plans to devote her full-time efforts to helping LWOB grow. Lawyers interested in contributing financially to the project or becoming a participant in the pro bono linking project should contact LWOB through the Web site or at the Byrne & Storm law offices. The LWOB is particularly interested in senior lawyers who expect to have some time on their hands and who may want to become involved in the management of the project and organization as it develops, Storm said.

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