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Lawyers Without Borders: Because Going Borderless Is In Vogue

By Neetal Parekh on February 02, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The earthquake in Haiti was like a strong espresso on an already-caffeinated Monday morning.  With a new year just underway and world attention focused on rebuilding economies, shoring up banks, and creating jobs, the striking devastation to life and property on the island nation just down the ocean from Florida, stormed the world stage.  Sometime after you heard the news and before the first aftershock, you may have caught yourself asking, how can I help?

Doctors and medical students were on the social media scene, dispersing names of medical organizations that needed volunteers.  Partners in Health and Doctors Without Borders were common go-to places that were passed on through tweets, Facebook status updates, and canvassed by email.

Lawyers and law students, feeling left out yet?

There is a way for legal professionals and disciples to join the trend of going borderless. Enter Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB).  Founded in 2000, it defines itself as, "an organization that is bringing lawyers together from around the world to give back through pro bono service--supporting rule of law, economic development, peacebuilding and sustainability in the legal sector throughout the world."

It cites ongoing projects in Liberia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone to name a few regions.  Gender-based domestic violence, equal access to justice, electoral violence, and conflict mitigation and alternate dispute resolution are common themes addressed by Lawyers Without Borders.  What can a volunteer expect to do?

  • Research legal isssues, country legal systems, human rights, etc.
  • Write reports, roadmaps, newsletters
  • Represent the organization at conferences and trainings
  • Participate in In-Country Missions in a region to assist with program development
  • Serve as a neutral observor of tribunal proceedings, trials, conflicts
  • Assist in training attorneys and judges in large scale alternate dispute resolution programs

Understandably, Lawyers Without Borders is not an emergency response organization such as the sans border medical teams noted above...however it pushes for change that is compelling--change that demands extensive understanding of local law and custom and the patience to follow issues through their indeterminate life cycles to be realized.

Ready to jump in? They are accepting internship applications for Summer 2010.  Fair warning, the automated video relaying info about the LWOB's summer internship is a bit, um, unique. You'll see what we mean.

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