In this category, The American Lawyer Global Citizenship Awards honor global matters dedicated to the spirit of pro bono and social responsibility. Below are the six winners, as well as the receipients of the Global Citizenship Lifetime Achievement Award.
Global CSR Initiative of the Year
Winner: The K&L Gates Global Day of Service
Honoree: K&L Gates
What a difference a day can make.
Last November, K&L Gates ran its first Global Day of Service, a volunteer initiative in which 1,500 lawyers and staff members on five continents participated. The firm’s Global Associate Liaison Committee, a group that periodically advises the firm’s Executive Committee, developed the idea, which was to both feed the hungry and foster a spirit of community involvement throughout the firm.
In the event, nearly 40 percent of the personnel in 43 offices took part in a variety of activities. They volunteered in food banks in Paris and Warsaw. Several offices focused on preparing meals: In Austin, Texas, 9,850; in Singapore, about 6,000, in Boston, more than 11,000. Meanwhile, in London, the office raised money for a typhoon relief charity; in Houston, volunteers served breakfast at a soup kitchen. And in Sao Paulo, lawyers and staff brought food, cake and balloons to celebrate birthdays at a child care center for low income families.
This project won’t solve the problem of world hunger. But it made a real difference to the people fed by the firm, and led K&L Gates to makes its Global Day of Service an annual event.
Global Pro Bono Dispute of the Year
Winner: Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder
Honoree: Sullivan & Cromwell
Jose Franco-Gonzalez is a 31-year-old Mexican national with the mental capacity of a 2-year-old. Yet for five years he was held in detention by the U.S. immigration officials and told to represent himself in deportation hearings. This proved impossible for a man who, according to his lawyers, can neither tell his birthday or the time of day.
In 2010 Franco-Gonzalez became the name plaintiff in a class action brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Citizen, a Los Angeles pro bono organization, represented by lawyers from Sullivan & Cromwell. They argued that the mentally disabled caught in the immigration system were entitled to the assistance of counsel on constitutional grounds as “a reasonable accommodation” to meet the terms of the federal Rehabilitation and Developmental Disabilities Act.
The day before the trial judge was set to rule in the case in April 2013, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced a new policy to provide counsel to detained persons with mental disabilities. In the decision issued the next day, the court held that on statutory grounds the mentally disabled plaintiffs were entitled to representation and, separately, to a bond hearing if they were detained for more than six months. Federal authorities estimate that 2-5 percent of immigration detainees have mental disabilities. As one observer put it, the decision is “a crack in the door that has been shut tight against legal representation for indigent detainees for decades.”
Global Pro Bono Deals of the Year (Environmental)
Cowinner: Cambodian Carbon Credits
Honoree: Dentons, Sok Siphana & Associates
Cowinner: Climate Adaptation Swaps in Small Island Nations
Honoree: Ropes & Gray
To save the planet’s environment, sometimes you have to harness the power of financial creativity. This year we give the Global Environmental Citizenship Award to two groups who seem to have done just that.
We start with the Seychelles, a nation of 115 islands in the Western Indian Ocean. Its economy depends on tuna and tourism, but rising sea and warmer water due to climate change are challenging marine life and threatening to inundate part of the islands.
As part of a solution, the Nature Conservancy and Ropes & Gray have created a debt-swap program for the Seychelles. A pair of Ropes associates, Kasia Walawska and Sandy Boer, and the Conservancy have kick-started the project by drafting enabling legislation and setting up a national Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust.
The trust will buy $80 million in long-term national debt at a discount, of which about a quarter will be forgiven, and $34 million will fund ecosystem projects aimed at enhancing marine conservation and climate adaptation. The program also will also establish a permanent endowment to finance the Seychelles’ conservation efforts.
Meanwhile, Dentons’ Jeffrey Fort has been trying to stop the clear cutting of the mountain forest area in Cambodia known as Oddar Meanchey, by creating a program to sell carbon credits on international markets. The project aims to reduce emissions from deforestation by 8 million tons over 30 years, while also generating an income stream for the 58 villages within the great forest. The continuation of the project depends on the further sales of these verified carbon credits.
Fort has teamed with San Francisco’s Terra Global Capital, and a husband-and-wife legal team in Phnom Penh called Sok Siphana & Associates to design the program. By coincidence, the forest is also the region where the Khmer Rouge made their last stand, and the rangers who patrol it have to be mindful of dangerous but undiscovered ordnance.
To date, Terra Global has not made a lot of money, because the existing markets for carbon credits are limited. But Fort, Dentons and the Cambodians continue to press on, waiting for the world to embrace this mechanism for cleaner and safer development. Whether in 2015 or beyond, Oddar Meanchey will be waiting.
Global Pro Bono Project of the Year (Asia)
Winner: Rule of Law Advice to Aung San Suu Kyi
Honoree: Orrick, Sutcliffe & Herrington
Robert Pé, a Hong Kong-based arbitration partner at Orrick, first met Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi in October 2012. It was a thrilling moment for Pé, whose father had fled the country then known as Burma over 50 years ago. He had long admired Suu Kyi’s personal courage and public advocacy for democratic reforms—work for which she won a Nobel Peace Prize. After being held under house arrest by the military dictatorship for 15 years, she was freed in 2010. By the time she met Pé, she was leading Myanmar’s official parliamentary opposition and serving as chair of the country’s Committee on the Rule of Law.
The latter role is crucial. As Myanmar has opened to the West, investors and other commercial interests have clamored to gain entry. But to make that work, the nation needed to embrace international legal norms and revive its dormant system of justice. Suu Kyi asked Pé to help and serve as her senior adviser on legal and constitutional reform.
Since that time, Pé has been plowing considerable energy into providing pro bono counsel on new Burmese legislation, and also on improving the quality of the legal system and judiciary. He works not only with local groups but also international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Bar Association (IBA).
Illustrating that effort, in March 2013, Mr. Pé organized workshops for parliamentarians on international arbitration, subsequently working to explain to Myanmar judges how foreign awards work under the New York Convention. This was an important step in a country where court judgments are usually handwritten and legislation and judgments are not published, and where lawyers and judges have frequently faced harassment. Says Pé: “I am trying to rebuild the rule of law.”
Global Pro Bono Project of the Year (Africa)
Winner: The Liberia Case Index Project
For five years Linklaters has worked to do nothing less than to recover and restore the legal history of Liberia.
Linklaters’ Liberia Case Index Project (part of a joint project also involving Lawyers Without Borders, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation) saw the creation of an indexed digest of the country’s entire jurisprudence. In the process it reinstated the legal foundations that were crushed by political upheaval and civil war. Now Liberian legal professionals can access and take into account case law stretching back to the country’s founding.
Volunteers put together a key word index accompanied by case summaries covering over 3,700 Liberian cases dating from the 1860s. Two hundred lawyers, trainees and summer associates at eight offices took part, contributing over 5,800 hours. This is an important effort to restore the rule of law and build investor confidence in Liberia.
Since the completion of the project, a case digest and index have been published and hard copies distributed to every judge in Liberia. In Liberia, at long last, precedent is alive and well.
Global Pro Bono Deal Program of the Year (Social Enterprise)
Winner: Funding Startups through The Eleos Foundation
Eleos, the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based foundation, takes its name from the Greek word for compassion. Its mission is supporting social entrepreneurs who are addressing extreme poverty in the developing world. It wants to address social challenges—and generate a positive financial return.
Dechert has had considerable experience with Eleos, advising on investment-related law and structuring of funds. For example, it helped to negotiate an equity investment in a startup that provides easily accessible supplemental education materials to students in rural Kenya. These materials have helped students perform better in school and, crucially, to score higher on the standardized tests that determine whether they are able to continue their studies.
Here’s another example of Dechert’s work for Eleos: working to negotiate a debt investment in Maya Mountain Cacao, a fair-trade chocolate manufacturer in Belize. The company sources premium cacao from smaller Belizean farmers—members of indigenous ethnicities—and provides these farmers with technical assistance, stable prices above the Fair Trade price floor and access to the premium chocolate market.
The firm’s lawyers have also established investment vehicles to serve as the source of funding for many of Eleos’s projects. These are managed by an Eleos affiliate and marketed on a private placement basis. In effect, say the lawyers, their structures allow additional investors to leverage the time and resources Eleos spends on negotiation and due diligence. This has proven a benefit for everyone, especially the startup companies.
Global Citizenship Lifetime Achievement Award
Cowinners: Hogan Lovells and the International Senior Lawyers Project
It began in 2006 with a phone call from an old colleague at the Open Society Institute to Joe Bell, a Washington energy partner at what was then known as Hogan & Hartson. Bell’s friend was calling on behalf of the new president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who had been elected to put an end to 25 years of corrupt military rule. Bell was a board member at the International Senior Lawyers Project, a New York based nonprofit that sent experienced lawyers around the world on a variety of pro bono missions. Liberia desperately needed legal assistance, his friend said. Could Bell get ISLP to help?
It was, as the man says in “Casablanca,” the start of a beautiful friendship.
Liberia’s immediate need was to begin renegotiating a series of contracts that previous governments had entered into with multinational corporations on terms that did not always fairly protect Liberia’s interests. Over the past eight years Hogan Lovells lawyers have helped negotiate a dozen major contracts—most involving natural resources—that when fully executed will bring an extra $11 billion to a very poor nation.
Working as volunteers under the ISLP umbrella, the Hogan lawyers have also drafted model agriculture and mining codes, helped develop a sound tax structure and drafted new health laws aimed at improving access to health care for expectant mothers and the mentally ill. And throughout, the Hogan lawyers have paid attention to the problem that first brought them to Monrovia: seeking to enforce the resource-rich contracts that they had won. In all, the firm has contributed tens of thousands of hours.
ISLP has sent lawyers from many other U.S., Canadian and British firms to Liberia and 10 other African nations on a variety of economic development, human rights and rule of law efforts across Africa. But Hogan has set the pace.
“This work is a long endeavor,” says Bell, eight years in. “Liberia is so poor. The progress can be frustrating. But our people have been happy to do this work and to stay engaged. We at Hogan and ISLP will continue to stay involved.”