Shearman & Sterling

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Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
Pro Bono Score
Average Pro Bono
Hours Per Lawyer
% of Lawyers
With More Than 20 Hours
22
Shearman & Sterling (26)
90.4
94.0
86.9

 

Arusha, Tanzania, doesn't appear on Shearman & Sterling's letterhead list of nineteen branch offices. But the firm is a constant presence there, sending one associate virtually every month since mid-2001 to clerk for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Throw in the occasional training seminar for prosecutors or firmwide research project, The Am Law Pro Bono 100and the firm's cumulative donation to the ICTR approaches an astonishing 40,000 hours.

"The breadth and length of Shearman's commitment to international justice is unique," says former Arusha prosecutor Simone Monasebian. "We at the ICTR benefited from the visiting lawyers' fresh perspective, analytic ability, and willingness to work long hours," says former chief of prosecutions Stephen Rapp. "They were happy for the break from their usual legal work and truly excited about the chance to help strengthen international justice."

Frederick Davis, who is now a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, recalls his first trip to Arusha, in September 2000, to explore the possibility of a relationship. "I imagined it would be a boondoggle 'show up and take pictures' sort of thing," but the underfunded court's needs were acute, and Davis found himself writing a ten-page memo in the Nairobi airport laying out a vision for the program. Davis and his partner Stephen Fishbein organized four seminars between 2001 and 2005, where leading U.S. lawyers could instruct Arusha prosecutors from civil law nations on techniques like witness examination. From time to time, they also harnessed the firm's resources for global research on key issues like the tension between press freedom and incitement to genocide. In 2001 Daniel Schimmel, now a partner at Kelley, Drye & Warren, took a sabbatical at the court. The firm decided to institutionalize the clerkship that he improvised, and began to rotate an associate through Arusha every month.

Rapp notes that most alumni of Shearman's Arusha office take a few days to climb Kilimanjaro or safari to Ngorongoro. But it is not the safaris that are recalled in interviews with associates. They tend to dwell instead on the horror of the testimony that they heard or, especially, their encounters with everyday Africans.

Stephen Penner, a midlevel in asset management, taught his African colleagues how to make s'mores while dressed in a Tanzanian soccer jersey at a dress-as-your-favorite-country party held in Shearman's Arusha house. After hitching a ride on a U.N. flight from Arusha to Kigali, New York litigator Paula Howell experienced a truly global cultural moment with a young Tutsi woman who had survived the unimaginable, bonding wordlessly in a nightclub over a loud rendition of "Turn Me On," by the reggae artist Kevin Lyttle of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. For Andreas Kafetzopoulos, the memory that lingers came over dinner at the home of a Tutsi man on the shores of Lake Kivu. The young antitrust attorney from Brussels was moved to discover that two of the other dinner guests were the recently released murderers of his host's brother and two nephews. For Kafetzopoulos, the most searing lesson of his experience at a court devoted to retribution was the human capacity for forgiveness.

"Virtually everyone who went was blown away by how real it was," says Davis, who began his own career as a Peace Corps volunteer West Africa. "Everyone I talked to sort of had their life changed." In a few cases, literally so. Irina Dragulev took a few years off from Shearman to join the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague. Leslie Haskell became the Rwanda researcher for Human Rights Watch in Kigali.

Prosecutors stress that the overburdened court, where even stationery is rationed, benefits immensely from the program. Monasebian says Shearman's help was crucial in obtaining her seminal 2003 convictions of three leading Rwandan media figures for genocide and conspiracy. She vividly recalls preparing five experts on short notice at Shearman's Paris office, and then, with no notice, hijacking their best bilingual associate to Arusha.

Monasebian would urge other major law firms to "adopt" an international institution—but she fears that Shearman's dedication is hard to recreate. When she reached out to other firms, in an effort to create a similar program for the defense team in Sierra Leone, she could not find any takers.

—Michael D. Goldhaber | July 1, 2009

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