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With the approach of a 50th birthday and her dreams of involvement in international law gone unrealized, Christina Storm borrowed her husband’s credit card to register an Internet domain name — Lawyers Without Borders — and set about the business of establishing a global lawyer-to-lawyer network. Her effort now boasts some 800 members, donated space for a headquarters in Hartford, Conn., the blessings of the United Nations and a handful of volunteer interns. Officially begun five years ago, Storm’s organization was stymied for awhile by a trademark challenge from Doctors Without Borders. With pro bono counsel from the Hartford office of Bingham McCutchen, the issue was favorably settled. And now Lawyers Without Borders, still very much in its formative stages, is making a push for partnership support among New York attorneys, their firms and legal academe. To that end, Storm and the organization’s executive director, John Meyers, came to Manhattan late last month to make their pitch to seven large firms during a reception hosted by the small New York office of Hartford-based Robinson & Cole. The stated mission: � Neutral legal support for non-government organizations worldwide. � Support for foreign “lawyers at risk.” � Neutral observation of closed trials and tribunals. � Clearinghouse service for international pro bono projects, human rights events and fellowships, and employment opportunities. Professor Toni M. Fine, director of graduate and international programs at New York University School of Law, said Lawyers Without Borders is “certainly highly irregular, if not unique” as a movement of attorneys that has consciously decided against being an advocacy organization. “We think the world needs neutrals,” Storm said in an interview. “There are many advocacy organizations out there already, and the work is well done. We don’t want to do what somebody else is doing unless we can do it better.” After a career of general practice in Connecticut, with a focus on mediation service, Storm searched for an outlet, she said, “to do pro bono work after I’d spent all those years charging hundreds of dollars an hour.” On Super Bowl weekend 2000, she consulted the Internet as her husband watched the big game. On a whim, she searched “Lawyers Without Borders” and found that the domain name was available. “I asked my husband if he’d mind if I bought it,” said Storm. “He gave me his American Express card and told me not to bother him until about 8 o’clock. I was off and running.” In formulating the group’s policy of neutrality, Storm said she exercised her impulse for mediation over argument. “Instead of going to Zimbabwe to protest the government, for instance, we should go in, view a trial, and speak to government officials in confidence,” she explained. “If you can get in the door, just being there will make a difference. If you get the added benefit of consulting with the government and making some suggestions — without penalty of reprisal or embarrassment — then you’ve accomplished something.” At first glance, said Fine, a board member of Lawyers Without Borders, “this doesn’t strike you as a brilliant move.” On second thought, however, “We provide technical expertise and assistance whenever it’s requested, and leave the advocacy to others. This is really necessary.” The benefits of an international e-mail network of like-minded lawyers is immeasurable, Fine suggested. Recently, a military lawyer working in northern Iraq sent a request to Storm for a concise guide to American constitutional law as text for a training program for Iraqi attorneys. At the click of a mouse, Storm contacted Fine, the author of “American Legal Systems: a Resource & Reference Guide,” which had recently been translated into Arabic. Fine, in turn, contacted her publisher. In six days, the Iraqi attorneys had 50 copies of the book. “In this world,” Fine asked, “what happens so quickly?” With the imprimatur of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council, Lawyers Without Borders has valuable “consultative status” in establishing contacts with lawyers abroad, and forming organization branches beyond the United States. The international network aspect appeals to Andrew Metcalf, a partner at King & Spalding. “It’s a force that can be mobilized with phone calls,” said Metcalf, who attended the January reception for Lawyers Without Borders. With point persons around the world, a lawyer in need anywhere “can simply call up, and avoid a few steps,” he said. The appeal of Lawyers Without Borders to young lawyers is potentially strong, said Metcalf. When he graduated from law school, he volunteered for legal education projects under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development. “I’m very interested in this now,” Metcalf said of Lawyers Without Borders, “as a way of going back and helping development efforts.” But another reception attendee, Anthony P. Cassino of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, was not ready to dip into his firm’s coffers in support of the new organization. “We’re hungry for good cases, especially where we can get our overseas offices involved,” said Cassino, pro bono coordinator at Milbank. Noting the relative inexperience of Lawyers Without Borders, he added, “You need to have a strong infrastructure to administer a program, and I think they’re not in that place yet. But if things change, and people tell me they’re delivering on their cases, then I’d love to get involved.” Meyers, Lawyers Without Borders’ executive director, said the group operates on a shoestring annual budget of about $100,000. “We’re beginning to really take shape,” said Fine. “What we do now is to give young lawyers the opportunity to make connections around the world and do good work.” Those young attorneys are “on call” via e-mail and fax to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a non-government agency administering war crimes trial procedure in Kosovo. In addition, Lawyers Without Borders members work with an American Bar Association project involving the monitoring and reporting of federal detainee conditions in U.S. prison facilities. More details: Lawyers Without Borders.

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