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The International Senior Lawyers Project, a pro bono network of experienced and politically connected attorneys from top law firms in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., was born when a pair of longtime friends met for lunch one day near the White House to complain about the dubious pleasures of impending retirement. For a bit more than two years now, the ISLP has operated quietly from a small office in the Met Life Building in midtown Manhattan. Despite precious fund-raising months lost due to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the project has partnered with a number of non-government organizations in the cause of guiding nations in transition from authoritarian rule to democracy, and counts missions accomplished in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Nowadays, the project’s 21-member board of volunteers hopes to soon and significantly boost its annual operating budget of about $150,000. Pivotal in creating the project were Washington attorneys Anthony F. Essaye and Robert H. Kapp, and Richard N. Winfield of New York, a retired Clifford Chance partner who teaches media law at Fordham University School of Law and Columbia Law School. In late 2000, Essaye and Kapp, longtime friends from competing firms, met for lunch at Dean & Deluca Expresso DC, a casual bo�te on Pennsylvania Ave. But instead of commiserating on the topic of retirement — Essaye is a retired Clifford Chance partner, while Kapp remains in partnership at Hogan & Hartson of Washington — they had a long talk about the sorry state of the world. Essaye had served as counsel to the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Walter Mondale. Kapp was formerly with the U.S. Department of Justice and participated in electoral and human rights delegations to South Africa and Bosnia. The two men developed an intriguing question: How might they and their fellow �minences grises around the globe help prevent a troubled world from blowing up? In the cause of an answer, they held a post-lunch telephone conference with Winfield, their mutual friend and contemporary. Winfield capsulized the spiritual pact made that day: “For us, golf is a four-letter word.” In September 2001, three days before al-Qaida terrorists attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the project was formally launched as a venue for retired lawyers and those nearing retirement to volunteer their time and skills. “The anger in so many parts of the world has to do with serious human rights problems that to some degree the U.S. has ignored,” said Jean C. Berman, executive director of the ISLP and a former senior staff attorney at Lawyers Alliance for New York. “I truly believe that the law firms will see the ISLP as a way of addressing some of those problems, which in the long run is the only way we’ll end terrorism. “We’re in a unique position to capture the talents of senior lawyers looking for ways to spend their [retirement],” said Berman, who was in private practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson and Berle, Butzel, Kass & Case. Early in her career, she was a Fulbright scholar, and she is fluent in Russian, French and Serbo-Croatian. Of her fellow lawyers with similarly rich backgrounds, she added, “They have skills and experience — and money. They pay their own way. “Experience is so important when you’re going abroad,” she added. “You need people who understand that there are different ways of approaching problems, that doing things one way isn’t the only way.” Winfield persuaded his former firm to house the ISLP rent-free at its headquarters at 200 Park Ave. Late last year, with Winfield and Berman ensconced in a Clifford Chance office once used by an associate, the project got under way in earnest. Among the organization’s current operations: � Retired ISLP volunteers counsel the African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes in designing training programs for African lawyers to negotiate effectively with foreign investors, banks and the World Trade Organization. � In partnership with Ashoka, the global non-profit agency dedicated to social change, an ISLP volunteer who is of counsel at the Washington office of Fried Frank advises a startup enterprise in the manufacture and distribution of low-cost hearing aids in India and elsewhere in the developing world. � In conjunction with the International Human Rights Law Group, the ISLP provides training in trial techniques for 45 staff attorneys of the Cambodian Defenders Project. � Working with the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa, the ISLP helps staff the Center for Global Law and Human Rights, which trains students and lawyers in international, commercial and civil rights law. “I don’t know why no one thought of this before,” said Kapp. “Maybe [our idea] was provoked by the fact that more and more senior lawyers are retiring at a somewhat earlier age. As a result, there are a lot of people around who are interested in remaining active and who have public interest backgrounds.” That was certainly the case with Winfield, who traveled to Turkey last summer to act as an observer for both the ISLP and the American Bar Association during the trial of 27 Turkish attorneys accused of facilitating courtroom disturbances during some notorious proceedings against their imprisoned Kurdish clients. Several of the Kurdish defendants, Winfield reported, were women on the 41st day of a fast to protest prison conditions. Judges postponed their request to make a statement in the Ankara courtroom. The defense lawyers protested because delay could — and did — mean their deaths from starvation. For that protest, Winfield said, the lawyers were eaten. Eventually, however, Winfield’s presence, along with that of other international observers, undoubtedly helped acquit the 27 Turkish lawyers of “abuse of office” charges. GLOBETROTTING ROLE Essaye said that kind of globe-trotting was an appropriate role for “so many of us lawyers who went to school in the late 1950s and early ’60s, so many of us who had a great interest in public service — and now here we are, in an excellent position to recapture that spirit.” A small investment in travel abroad, he added, could yield big dividends to the ISLP cause. “The way it’s turning out, we have people go [abroad] for two or three weeks, establish good relationships, and then come back to the U.S. where a fair amount of this work can be done,” Essaye said. “You might go back from time to time, but you wouldn’t have to decamp for months and months — nothing like that.” And just how are critical relationships made in a matter of weeks? “Our collective Rolodex is rather remarkable,” said Winfield. “And then you multiply that by the several hundred lawyers we’ve worked with for 30 or 40 years on seven continents — well, it’s just a tremendous reservoir of talent and connection. “We’re men and women in our 50s and 60s and 70s,” he added. “And we’re looking forward, not back.”

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