Ten years ago DLA Piper created New Perimeter (NP), a stand-alone not-for-profit affiliate to facilitate its lawyers undertaking pro bono projects in a global context.
This month it celebrated its tenth anniversary, and we spoke to Lisa Dewey, Pro Bono Partner at DLA Piper, Washington DC and a director of New Perimeter, and Sara Andrews, Senior International Pro Bono Counsel at DLA Piper, Boston, and Assistant Director of New Perimeter, about its history, and what it has learned and achieved.
How did NP start?
DLA Piper already had a strong domestic pro bono program in the US, and wanted to create something special that would have its own structure, its own staff and methodology. It was created to facilitate creative thinking about how teams of lawyers can be best used to address global problems. It was formed around the time that DLA and Piper Rudnick merged making DLA Piper one of the largest business law firms in the world, and was an integral part of the firm’s vision for the future.
No other law firm has adopted this model to pursue its global pro bono program. What makes this program special and unique?
NP has an Advisory Board of people who are really senior, experienced people from the legal sector and not-for-profit world. This has brought a unique quality. We learn from them, they provide guidance and a sounding board for projects, they ask the hard questions and provide perspectives from sectors other than just the legal sector.
It also allows us to think about what benefits we can provide by using a global team of lawyers, each of whom can bring experience from their country and office. After 10 years of learning and application, we have retained institutional knowledge that is now applied to each new project that we consider.
Lawyers have to apply to work on a NP project, and there is no shortage of applications. That’s what makes it special internally. We have more applications from within the firm than we have available slots, and those applications come from all levels of the firm. Our projects provide very interesting work, an opportunity for travel and to be on the ground in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Externally, being able to partner with another not-for-profit is a real advantage as it provides an opportunity to become integrated and work closely with that organisation.
What have been some of NP’s key achievements?
NP has worked in many countries but in a sustained way for several years in each of Kosovo, Mexico, and East Africa. Whilst impact can’t be measured straight away, and it can take years to measure, we can say after ten years that some real social outcomes have been achieved.
NP does have identified areas of focus for its program. These are Access to Justice and Law Reform, Women’s Rights, Legal Education, and Social and Economic Development. There has been an emphasis on trying to support and build sound legal institutions and on women’s rights and empowering women.
For example in Kosovo, where Sara has worked extensively, DLA Piper lawyers came in to help local lawyers to develop new laws, to train and mentor officers from the Ministry of Justice, and then in a second phase, to work with the bar association to help them develop CLE programs and increase the number of women joining the legal profession. Working with the senior leadership of the Kosovo Ministry of Justice, DLA Piper lawyers have been involved in the development of both a new court and prosecution system for Kosovo. “The ability to stay with a project over a number of years to a point where real change can be seen has been incredibly rewarding”, says Sara.
Similarly in Mexico, where NP has worked for about 8 years with Appleseed, a small organisation with a mission of trying to develop a culture of pro bono in Mexico, DLA Piper lawyers have worked alongside this organisation teaching in law schools in Mexico City and elsewhere about access to justice and pro bono, and as a result have seen Appleseed and others increasingly leverage pro bono services to work on a variety of important projects.
What is the future of New Perimeter?
We have developed a reputation. We have groups wanting to work with us. The challenge is often how do we best use the limited resources we have.
Yes, it is sustainable. This firm has an incredible commitment to pro bono. It is part of what we do and who we are. We are looking forward to at least the next ten years!