In a first of its kind workshop to celebrate International Women’ Day, Thomson Reuters TrustLaw — the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal program — and the law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel coordinated to assist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which focus on women’s rights.
The NGO representatives brought their passion and concerns, and explained their directives and missions, which ranged from helping women through the criminal justice system in the United States, to assisting refugee women, children and youth across the world, to training women on how and why to run for political office.
A survey was completed in advance of the workshop, so the NGOs could prioritize their current and prospective legal needs, thus maximizing their time with what was essentially a speed-coaching session. The most common concerns were centered around data protection (not a surprise with the recent implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union), and corporate structuring and governance.
Attorneys from Kramer Levin gathered early in the morning to review the scope of the workshop. Using the completed surveys, the NGOs were assigned to tables based on their identified needs (Data Protection & Privacy, Employment, Legal Research & Advocacy, Commercial Contracts, Corporate Structuring and Taxation, or Governance). There were two assigned sessions and then a third open session, allowing the representatives to pick a third table to provide a legal health check around a newly identified topic of interest, or out of general curiosity.
This legal intake workshop was also unique as it allowed attorneys to pick the areas in which they naturally practice. Oftentimes attorneys want to engage in pro bono projects but are hesitant to do so because the legal need falls outside their comfort zone. This coordinated workshop allowed attorneys to see a matter from start to finish if they chose to do so. And because it covered such a wide swath of topics, essentially all attorneys felt welcomed and could participate with minimal onboarding.
About a dozen attorneys from Kramer Levin, from all disciplines and practice areas, worked with the NGOs to flesh out their legal needs. During the speed-coaching sessions, attorneys mapped out the potential and current project needs, such as updating their data privacy policies, reviewing their bylaws, standardizing agreements across jurisdictions, or changing their corporate structure.
In the area of Commercial Contract with two NGOs, for example, two lawyers met with the NGO representatives to understand their mandates and concerns, helped to flesh out potential current legal issues, and mapped out future areas for consideration. The information was then distilled into distinct projects for the TrustLaw team to move forward as the NGOs needed.
“This workshop provided a unique opportunity to combine our firm’s long standing commitment to pro bono with women’s initiatives and empowerment that we are passionate about,” said Pam Capps, Tax Partner and Co-chair of the Women’s Initiative Committee at Kramer Levin. “It was a great day all around as we were able to learn so much from the NGOs while being able to provide valuable guidance to them at the same time.”