March 1, 2013

International Pro Bono opportunities for Senior Lawyers

John Hardin “Jack” Young

John Hardin "Jack" Young interviews Leigh Middleditch, a member of the ABA’s Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI) Board and Jim St. Clair, chair of SLD’s International Issues Committee, on pro bono opportunities for senior lawyer in the international field. In addition, Judge Louraine Arkfeld, SLD and Sec- tion of International Law Council member, has prepared a list of websites that may be of use to senior lawyers desiring to be involved in international programs.

Jack Young: What is the ABA doing to promote the Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI) abroad?

Leigh Middleditch: ROLI was established in 2007 to consolidate five ABA overseas rule of law programs, including the Central European and Euro-Asian Law Initiative. Today ROLI implements legal reform programs in more than 40 countries around the world through 500 professional staff, most of whom serve abroad. Funding is primarily through the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and foundations, though volunteers have contributed more than $200 million in pro bono technical assistance with local partners.


Jack: How can senior lawyers become involved in international projects?

Leigh: There are a number of opportunities. These include working through various ABA sections, e.g., the Section of International Law; overseas organizations, e.g., the International Bar Association; and efforts of various organizations such as the International Senior Lawyers Project, www.


Jack: What is the International Senior Lawyers Project? 

Leigh: ISLP is based in New York and recruits senior lawyers to serve in particular matters, generally at the request of foreign NGOs.


Jack: What opportunities exist within ROLI for senior lawyers?

Leigh: ROLI works through a variety of geographic counsels in Africa, Asia, Europe and Euro-Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa. Thematic areas cover access to justice and human rights, anticorruption and public integrity, criminal reform and human trafficking, judicial reform, legal education reform, civic education, legal profession reform, and human rights. Contacts should be made directly to ROLI, www.american- You may also contact the SLD’s International Issues Committee for further information,


Jack: What has been some of your most memorable overseas work?

Leigh: I participated with ISLP in commercial education programs for disadvantaged lawyers in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

James St. Clair: I have participated in extensive overseas teaching opportunities. For some, retirement is the time for reflection. For others, it’s the time for golf. For others, it’s the time for service. After 41 years of managing a successful three-person law firm, I decided that I had had enough of demanding, often ungrateful clients, and I retired in 2002. I then embarked on an adventure that would not only change my life, but that has hopefully improved the lives of some attorneys worldwide.

Prior to retirement, the “international waters” were tested by a three week teaching venture with three North American lawyers in the Ukraine. This was later followed by two weeks in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Following retirement, I went to Bosnia Herzegovina with ROLI, where I spent 11 months providing legal training and assistance to lawyers in that war-torn nation. There I came to understand the need for mature lawyers willing to share their expertise. 

In each country, seminars were conducted in order to offer training and provide assistance to lawyers interested in expanding their knowledge. Today, at age 76, I continue to share my expertise through the ISLP, where I focus most of my work in southern African countries, including South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. The most recent trip was in August 2011; it took me to Victoria Falls and Harare in Zimbabwe and to East London, South Africa. The programs, which focused on business law, were conducted with a Canadian lawyer and experienced local attorneys.

I also volunteered with a large law firm in Costa Rica to assist with its English language skills and the installation of a law office management and accounting software package, “Time Matters.” I have also had the opportunity occasionally to, while on a sightseeing tour, hold discussions with law students, as happened with a program given in Brazil. It can be rewarding.

Before any overseas vacation, contact a lawyer or two in that country about a brief visit to discuss legal subjects. Just look them up in Martindale, where it is disclosed whether they speak English. This is an excellent way to explore an aspect of the world that one would not otherwise see, and you also get to meet a lot of great people. Lawyers can be charming, hospitable hosts.

Because attorneys in many countries speak English and have access to the Internet, volunteers do not usually have a language barrier or any technological obstacles to overcome. The ultimate goal is that one day we won’t have to come back. It is hoped the locals will upgrade their skills; that they’ll not only be able to practice professionally, but also that they will start to share their expertise with others. Attending advanced programs is a great opportunity for these lawyers to get in on the ground floor as their countries evolve.

As long as there’s a need for training, the ABA, ISLP, and other organizations can, with your help, continue to supply the assistance of experienced lawyers. However, even if traveling the world is not a viable option for you, there are hundreds of other opportunities for senior lawyers to give back.

For senior lawyers who are approaching retirement or already enjoying it, sound advice is: Give back. It keeps your mind sharp and your body moving. It really makes for a happy and stimulating retirement and creates new goals and new horizons in your life. Teaching and living abroad is entirely different from being a tourist. It truly enables you to give back.


Jack: In addition to the resources listed above, please see the following list of useful websites. This list was provided to us by Hon. Louraine Arkfeld, former presiding judge of the Tempe, Arizona, Municipal Court, who is active in many ABA entities, including the SLD and the Section of International Law. She travels extensively throughout the world to provide judicial training and other kinds of legal education.


International Pro Bono opportunities for Senior Lawyers


•  ABA Rule of Law Initiative,

• The Carter Center,

•  United Nations Criminal Law and Judicial Advisory Service,

•  UK Department for International Development (DFID), www.

•  DPK Consulting,

•  International Association of Women Judges,

•  International Development Law Organization,

•  International Senior Lawyers Project,

•  Lawyers without Borders,

•  National Center for State Courts,

•  United Nations Development Programme Jobs, http://jobs.

•  U.S. State Department,

•  World Bank,

•  World Justice Project,

John Hardin “Jack” Young ( is a co-chair of the SLD’s Pro Bono & Public Service Committee, a former member of the ABA Board of Governors, and an adjunct professor in international and comparative election law at the William & Mary Law School.