New Perimeter conducts second training for female Nepali lawyers with Women Lawyers Joining Hands and the Nepal Bar Association
Jenifer Smith, a Partner with DLA Piper in Austin, was part of a team that partnered with Canadian NGO Women Lawyers Joining Hands (WLJH) and the Nepal Bar Association to provide continuing legal education to female Nepali lawyers. Jenifer discusses the trip to Nepal and provides insight to the importance of pro bono work to DLA Piper’s culture.
Q: A huge part of DLA Piper’s DNA seems to be giving back. DLA Piper provides 200,000 Pro Bono hours each year. Why do you do this? How does this impact your culture?
Jenifer: Pro bono is a core value at DLA Piper. Around the world, our lawyers are working to improve access to justice, promote the rule of law, and provide legal services to individuals who cannot otherwise afford a lawyer and organizations that qualify for pro bono assistance. We are involved at the local level — our work ranges from representing low-income individuals in court to working with non-profits and social enterprises focused on community development (among other engagements) — to the international level.
Everyone at DLA Piper plays a role in our pro bono practice. Among its many benefits to our firm culture, pro bono work provides an opportunity for our lawyers and staff to pursue issues they are passionate about; to meet ethical obligations and professional responsibilities as legal professionals; to collaborate with legal services providers, in-house lawyers, and law students; and to develop professionally.
Q: Our understanding is that each DLA Piper attorney is encouraged to devote at least 60 hours to pro bono work each year. You recently participated in this pro bono effort by training female Nepalese attorneys. Can you tell us about this project?
Jenifer: Our work in Nepal was part of New Perimeter, DLA Piper’s global pro bono initiative. Through New Perimeter, DLA Piper lawyers from around the world participate in pro bono projects aimed at enhancing access to justice, building sound legal institutions, and promoting social and economic development, with an overarching focus on women’s advancement.
My work in Nepal was part of an initiative with Canada-based Women Lawyers Joining Hands and the Nepal Bar Association. It was designed to support female lawyers in Nepal — who make up less than 10% of the country’s registered lawyers and less than 2% of those in private practice — through training, mentoring and networking to increase their skills and opportunities for advancement. New Perimeter sent its first group of lawyers to Nepal in December 2015, where they trained 30 female Nepali lawyers on ethics and the professional obligations of lawyers and corporate and commercial law. I was part of the second group of lawyers that New Perimeter sent to Nepal. During the March 2017, we delivered the same training to a new group of 30 Nepali women lawyers. In addition, we prepared new training modules on intellectual property and international arbitration, and delivered advanced trainings to the 30 women who had participated in 2015. We worked alongside co-trainers from the Nepal Bar Association. As part of the program, we spent time with the Nepali lawyers getting to know them and helping them improve their professional skills.
Q: We’ve talked about what DLA Piper and you have given, but what do you get out of this community service? Does it make you a better attorney? A better DLA Piper employee? Does it make DLA Piper better and if so, how?
Jenifer: Pro bono work in general, and the Nepal training program in particular, has been incredibly rewarding for me both personally and professionally. One of the most important skills we can develop as attorneys is our ability to connect with another person and understand their perspective — this enables us to do a better job of partnering with our clients to find the right solution to their challenge or the most effective strategy to achieve their objective. Through pro bono work, I have had the opportunity to connect with people, both within the firm and in the local and international communities, in a deeper, more purposeful way than might otherwise have been possible.
During the Nepal program, I worked with a diverse team of DLA Piper attorneys from around the world to strengthen our relationships with each other as well as with the women lawyers we had the opportunity to serve. We were humbled by the Nepali lawyers’ warmth and generosity, inspired by their courage and energized by their spirit and determination. This opportunity reinforced our individual roles as part of a global firm that takes its responsibility as a contributing member of the global community very seriously. It is fantastic for our lawyers to be at the core of that commitment and understand that we are all working passionately together as an organization to do what we can to help improve the lives of others.