April 28, 2021 International Senior Lawyers Committee

Senior Lawyer Pro Bono Opportunities to Advance the Rule of Law Globally

Notes by Robert L. Brown

Watch the video replay of Senior Lawyer Pro Bono Opportunities to Advance the Rule of Law Globally and find out how SLD members can contribute their knowledge and skills globally. 

The April meeting of SLD International Senior Lawyers Committee, chaired by Bob Lutz and Aaron Schildhaus, discussed opportunities for lawyers to participate in global rule of law efforts. In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP), SLD-International Senior Lawyers Committee is looking to offer opportunities for senior lawyers to participate (at this time remotely) in projects that provide legal assistance to developing and transitioning, post-conflict countries around the world. 


Primary speakers were Joe Yang, Deputy Chief Counsel of CLDP. Mr. Yang is CLDP’s second-in-command. Prior to being selected as Deputy Chief Counsel, Mr. Yang served as a CLDP Senior Counsel advising governments in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Also participating was Marc Tejtel, Deputy Chief Counsel for Strategic Initiatives and Mentoring at CLDP. Prior to entering phased retirement at the end of 2019, Marc was CLDP’s second-in-command .

Commercial Law Development Program, US Department of Commerce

CLDP, a division of DOC’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC), helps achieve U.S. foreign policy goals through commercial law reform. CLDP works at the behest of US embassies around the world. According to its website, "CLDP's unique, government-to-government technical assistance seeks to engage senior lawyers who are experienced regulators, judges, policymakers, business leaders and practitioners from both the public and private sectors to deliver results that make meaningful and lasting changes to the legal and business environments of host countries." CLDP operates worldwide on a pro bono basis and offers senior lawyers opportunities to contribute efforts that advance the rule of law through commercial law reform. 

Activities for Volunteer Senior Lawyers

Volunteer senior lawyers under this new cooperative program may get opportunities to do the following:

  • Review draft laws and regulations to ensure that they are compatible with best international practices;
  • Help revise national investment laws ensuring they are conducive to foreign investment;
  • Make presentations in seminars for foreign officials in-person or virtually;
  • Assist the development of negotiation skills of foreign officials through in-person or remotely conducted simulated negotiations;
  • Serve as arbitrators or judges for international moot court competitions.

Some of the key projects described by Joe and Marc are:

  • Review draft legislation;
  • Organize workshops and webinars featuring topic experts;
  • Negotiation training exercises; and
  • Serving as Vis Moot Court arbitrators.

Currently, CDLP’s five main domains of activity are:

  • Revising investment laws;
  • Helping structure investment projects;
  • Modernizing insolvency laws;
  • Improving access to finance by modernizing finance laws; and
  • Insuring transparency in procurement.

At present, all CLDP programs are virtual due to COVID-19, but CLDP expects to begin in-person meetings when international travel resumes.

CLDP’s Senior Counsel Lindsey Scannell explained how CLDP has developed an online course to train foreign government lawyers in the negotiation and drafting of contracts for international infrastructure projects. The training is similar to a bar review program. Each module lasts 25-45 minutes.

Impact of CDLP

In response to question on what impact CLDP has, Joe and Marc pointed to several examples:

  • Helped eradicate counterfeiters in Algeria because the Algerian judge who adjudicated an infringement suit filed by a major US firm against counterfeiters had been trained by CLDP and found for the US firm.As a result, the US firm  increased its investment in Algeria.
  • In order to help countries develop entrepreneurship, assisted with the modernization of their insolvency laws so that they now include “second chance” mechanisms akin to the US Chapter 11. CLDP did so by working with US bankruptcy judges and trustees.
  • CLDP has assisted several countries with joining the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. This is significant because most foreign investors, loath to rely on foreign jurisdiction to resolve investment disputes, will prefer to invest in countries that are signatories of the New York convention.

Many foreign people trained by CLDP become prominent in their nations. CLDP’s Senior Counsel Nnamdi Ezera stated that the current Vice President of Nigeria participated in CLDP anti-corruption and transparency programs. According to CLDP Senior Counsel Zmarak Khan, in Afghanistan, programs supported by CLDP have graduated dozens of students who then work for the Afghan government. In fact, CLDP is regularly contacted and asked to refer its students to work for government. Two key advisors to Afghanistan’s President are graduates from CLDP programs. In addition, the General Counsel of the national power company is a graduate. The head of Afghanistan’s ADR center is a graduate from CLDP’s programs; so are the deputy head and other officials of the center.

Joe noted that CLDP is very engaged with foreign government officials at all levels.

Foreign Language Not Required

For senior lawyers interested in CLDP projects, knowledge of foreign languages is not required. CLDP will provide interpreters when needed.

How to Get Engaged

After discussing how to make opportunities available to ABA members, it was agreed that volunteers should contact--

Bob Lutz (rlutz@swlaw.edu), Co-Chair of the SLD International Committee, who will forward names and contact information to Joe and Marc.

Support from SLD Leaders

Tony Barash, chair of SLD Pro Bono Committee, supports this initiative and indicated his committee is ready to help. Jim Schwartz, Vice Chair of SLD, considered the meeting an eye-opening experience. As the class representative of all Sections/Divisions/Forums in the ABA, he is willing to share the idea with other parts of ABA. Carole Worthington, Chair Elect of SLD said she was impressed by the opportunity to participate and have a global impact. She thanked everyone for bringing the opportunity to SLD. Michael Van Zandt, Chair of SLD, noted he once worked on environmental standards in the Marshall Islands for CLDP, and had a great experience and memories. He will ask Bob to give a presentation to the SLD Executive Committee on this topic.

Don De Amicis, actively involved with CLDP and who brought this project to Bob and Aaron, called it “a marriage made in heaven.” He looks at this as systemic reform. Senior lawyers have a lot of experience in capacity-building and experiential business such as training commercial attachés doing work around the world, capacity-building with entrepreneurs, and training foreign judges in implementing the Vienna Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods or the New York Convention about arbitral awards.

Aaron felt that CLDP raises the image of America and Americans around the world.


In conclusion, Marc noted that:

  • CLDP is in the business of bringing about change in foreign countries’ laws and regulations in order to create environments conducive to increased trade and investment in these countries.
  • Bringing about such changes can only happen if key foreign officials become champions of such changes.
  • These officials will only do so if they develop relationships of mutual trust and respect with CLDP’s teams.  
  • ABA’s Senior Lawyers have the gravitas and the expertise required to build such relationships.

Joe and Marc thanked everyone for participating.


About the International Senior Lawyers Committee

The primary initiative of the International Senior Lawyers Committee is to educate members about international legal developments and to develop projects, programming, policy, and publications related to such developments.