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Latham & Watkins, Pro Bono Institute provide overview of international pro bono landscape

Report includes details about legal aid programs, unmet legal needs, practice rules and more

A new pro bono report literally puts the world at in-house counsel’s fingertips.

The 2012 edition of Latham & Watkins’ Survey of Pro Bono Practices and Opportunities in Select Jurisdictions, conducted in conjunction with the Pro Bono Institute (PBI), provides an overview of the legal landscape in dozens of countries around the globe, including details about local legal aid programs, unmet legal needs, the cultural perception of pro bono and rules about engaging in pro bono work. The report serves as a guide for law firms, nongovernmental organizations, legal departments and other interested parties that want to pursue international pro bono projects.

Latham & Watkins and PBI started producing the report in 2005. The first version surveyed 11 jurisdictions, most of them located in Europe. 

“Until the survey, there was really no resource for people who were looking to engage in pro bono in jurisdictions outside of their core home countries,” says Wendy Atrokhov, Latham & Watkins’ public service counsel. 

Assembling the 376-page 2012 report was nearly a five-month process.

“This past year, we undertook the most ambitious update yet,” Atrokhov says. “We had more than 100 attorneys and staff from across all of our 30 offices engaged. We were able to expand the survey to nearly double the previous edition so that it now covers more than 70 jurisdictions in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”

The 2012 report underscores notable gaps in coverage in state-provided legal services within many jurisdictions. “In some jurisdictions, the services are not meeting the demand among everyone who’s eligible, or they exclude certain portions of the population from eligibility,” Atrokhov says. “Immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers may not be entitled to legal aid.” 

The report also educates in-house counsel about possible barriers in pursuing international pro bono work. “In some countries, practice rules make it virtually impossible for in-house counsel to undertake pro bono work, as they are not treated as fully practicing lawyers,” says Esther Lardent, president and CEO of PBI. “In addition, in some parts of the world—the European Union, for example—in-house counsel do not have an attorney-client privilege, or that privilege is limited, so that client confidences are not protected, and building trust with pro bono clients may be impaired.”

 Lardent says the report gives inside counsel “the tools to advocate for changes in rules and processes that inhibit in-house pro bono service.”  

Additionally, the report helps companies grow their business opportunities. “Many companies are focused on expanding their customer base and growing revenues in developing nations,” Lardent says. “To help them do so, their legal departments must be familiar with legal practice and procedure, both written and unwritten, in those nations. Pro bono offers an important vehicle to gain that understanding, to develop contacts with key stakeholders and regulators, and to create goodwill.” 

The 2012 survey was the first that contained input from in-house counsel. Latham & Watkins and PBI plan to continue working with in-house counsel to identify more pro bono-related considerations that are unique to them in jurisdictions around the world.

Contributing Author

Ashley Post

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