December 01, 2008

ABA Pro Bono Expert Participates in China Roundtable

ABA ROLI’s December 11 roundtable provided China’s pro bono champions the opportunity to learn from visiting experts and each other.

ABA ROLI’s December 11 roundtable provided China’s pro bono champions the opportunity to learn from visiting experts and each other.

December 2008

The chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) Standing Committee on Pro Bono, Mark Schickman, met in Beijing with representatives from Chinese law firms to discuss strategies for increasing pro bono activities and for promoting public service more broadly within the legal profession. Participants in the December 11 meeting included the director of the All China Lawyers Association Legal Aid and Public Interest Law Committee, the China country director from the Public Interest Law Institute, and partners and attorneys from the Jun He Law Firm, the Da Cheng Law Firm, the De Heng Law Firm. The meeting was facilitated by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI).

Each of the participating firms is a leader in the development of pro bono models in China. While on the rise, the existence of pro bono activities in Chinese firms is a relatively new phenomenon and models vary widely across firms. The Jun He Law Firm has joined a consortium of organizations, which includes the China offices of the U.S. firm McKinsey, Deloitte, and Novartis, that is beginning to provide legal and capacity-building assistance to Chinese non-governmental organizations. The Da Cheng Law Firm, the largest law firm in China, is considering strategies that will mobilize lawyers from its offices across China to engage in pro bono work, while the De Heng Law Firm has created a pro bono department that develops new projects and coordinates the participation of the law firm’s attorneys.

Mr. Schickman shared those strategies that have been effective in promoting pro bono in the U.S., including the ABA’s model policies for law firms, law schools and the judiciary. He also detailed the work of the standing committee, which provides ongoing technical assistance for law firms and law schools establishing pro bono and public service programs. Mr. Schickman mentioned that coordination is a critical element in successful models, especially in connecting lawyers with pro bono opportunities and in creating firm policies that do not penalize—and instead create incentives for—associates to engage in pro bono work.

Roundtable participants discussed the challenges of establishing and maintaining pro bono programs, such as dealing with liability issues and identifying appropriate clients and cases. At the roundtable’s conclusion, the participants recognized the importance of forums that allow law firms committed to pro bono to share best practices and lessons learned.

To support ongoing pro bono efforts in China, ABA ROLI is currently providing technical assistance for a manual for Chinese law firms and assisting with China’s first survey of pro bono practices in law firms.

To learn more about our work in China, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <>.