Private-Sector Lawyers Make a Difference in Rule of Law Around the World
Private companies typically lead economic development in countries around the world, and at the same time, they look for ways to give back to the communities in which they do business, said Rob Boone, staff director of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at a panel during the Annual Meeting in Chicago. During the session, a number of counsel at private companies explained how they and their employers work to promote the rule of law. ABA ROLI’s work was also discussed.
The ACE Rule of Law Fund was established four years ago by Robert Cusumano, general counsel of the ACE Group, explained Rebecca Collins, counsel with the ACE Group Limited and co-chair of the ACE Rule of Law Fund. It provides grants to organizations and initiatives that support rule of law worldwide, and is funded by ACE in-house lawyers, multiplied with donations from outside counsel partners and company contributions.
The fund tends to assist specific projects rather than providing general funding for organizations in their rule of law efforts, continued Collins. Two programs highlighted during the panel were the sponsorship of a 2010 University of Pennsylvania conference that brought stakeholders together to provide a framework for new legal institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sponsorship of a Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and New York State Bar conference in Santiago, Chile, titled “Pro Bono and the Legal Profession: Strengthening Access to Justice,” that provided best practices in providing pro bono.
Microsoft Corp.’s rule of law program has undergone several iterations since the corporation established it in 1993, explained Nancy Anderson, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel there, though the “why” of the program — that Microsoft has a stake in the functioning of the markets and societies in the countries in which the company does business — has not.
The first phase of the program was to support academic and thought leadership; the second, to partner with organizations on the ground using in-house expertise, for example, technology to fight cybercrime; and the third and current phase of the rule of law program is going beyond the corporation’s “day job expertise” to expand pro bono opportunities around the world. In many cultures, the expectations of pro bono activity simply aren’t there, Anderson said, which sometimes means changing rules locally for lawyers to be able to participate in such work.
In addition to the models of an in-house fund to support rule of law activities, and the use of a company’s expertise, another model for private sector involvement in rule of law support is one of using a company’s core competencies. As Ian McDougall, executive vice president and general counsel of LexisNexis, outlined, there is a close connection between rule of law and GDP growth. McDougall spoke to his company’s support in Sierra Leone, Africa, in producing consolidated laws through LexisNexis’ core competency of being a legal publisher.
LexisNexis employees found that Sierra Leonists themselves didn’t even know their own laws. So there was no way for the company to do what it normally does in-country — that is, to produce a set of consolidated laws. After asking leaders around the nation what they understood the laws to be, and what behavior is prosecuted, LexisNexis pulled information together and presented it to the African government, which passed the compilation as a body of law.
McDougall emphasized his company’s culture of service in providing two days’ paid time off for employees to do some charitable activity, with such service being a component to employee reviews and bonus consideration.
Also at the panel, ABA leaders gave an overview of the work that the association’s Rule of Law Initiative does in providing technical, legal aid assistance in collaboration with NGOs, the private sector and the government.
Former ABA House of Delegates Chair Linda Klein spoke about the impact the programs make, including helping to strengthen private sector and civil society in host countries, for example, in preventing and prosecuting human trafficking; to foster legal environments conducive for businesses to both operate more fairly and to behave responsibly in a rule of law culture; and to create a more business-friendly environment in host countries, for example, by ensuring security of property rights and reliability of commercial contracts.
Audio from the program can be found online.
You can learn more about the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law in roughly 60 countries worldwide by visiting its website or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/ABA.Rule.of.Law.Initiative.