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Photo: Global Pro Bono Panelists
L to R: panelists Bert Brandenberg, Chloe Holderness, Meredith Ogilvie-Thompson, Jessica Ryckman, and Lisa Dewey

Crossing the Border: Global Pro Bono

By Cheryl Polydor

“Think globally, act locally.” The two increasingly have become one in this age of the global village and the global economy. Local lawyers and judges interested in promoting justice beyond U.S. borders now can do so without leaving home. They also can work directly in the field—whether that means traveling to rural Mexico or North Darfur, Sudan.

We heard about this and more at our November 2 program on Global Pro Bono. The event was hosted by DLA Piper, which provides pro bono legal services in the United States and abroad under the direction of Pro Bono Partner Lisa Dewey. Moderating the program was Covington & Burling Pro Bono Counsel Kelly Voss.

The panelists described the many and varied ways that their organizations harness local legal talent to promote the rule of law, advance human rights and economic justice, and equip communities around the world with tools to achieve these goals themselves.

The speakers included Bert Brandenberg (President, Appleseed); Meredith Ogilvie Thompson (Director of Communications & Operations, International Senior Lawyers Project); Jessica Ryckman (Special Counsel & Program Manager, Lawyers Without Borders); and Chloe Holderness (Managing Director, Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation). They emphasized the need for volunteers with all levels of experience and areas of expertise. Their organizations, in turn, offer training and support so that every participant can contribute—whether by researching legal developments affecting gender equality, or conducting a trial on behalf of a disadvantaged individual or group seeking land rights.

These organizations emphasize different issues, use different legal strategies, and work with volunteers in different ways. Yet none of them can succeed without volunteers, and there is always more work to be done.

If you have a passion for justice in the U.S. and beyond, consider volunteering with one of the following organizations, and join a global community of lawyers working to make the world a better place:

You can also check out the ABA’s Rule of Law Initiative.

Cheryl Polydor is Pro Bono Attorney for Systemic Reform at AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly.