The 4th Asia Pro Bono Conference and Legal Ethics Forum (www.probonoconference.org) was an amazing success and all of us at BABSEACLE were incredibly excited and super busy helping to make this happen.
What does this all mean and how did this event originate?
The idea of persons in the justice sector providing free legal services, for the poor, with the same quality and passion as services for compensation, has been promoted and practiced in many countries worldwide. In Asia, this mindset is clearly growing and there is a strong and expanding regional movement, collaboratively working together to assist in this development. With this said, like in the rest of the world, there is a long way to go in having pro bono completely mainstreamed into the traditional practice of law and within other areas of the justice sector.
Principles and mechanisms that regulate lawyers, who dedicate their working hours, for free, to support people, who can’t afford to pay, are still limited. In addition, many legal educators and policy makers are not yet fully aware of the value of instilling the pro bono spirit and social responsibilities, in law students, who are the lawyers-of-the-future.
In order to further assist this incredibly growing force, and as a means to assist in the greater raising of awareness towards pro-bono, BABSEACLE has been honored to be working with a global Consortium. This Consortium is made up of local and international lawyers and law firms, government and non-government personnel and organizations, intergovernmental agencies, university academics and students and the companies and individuals from the for-profit sector.
One of the key strategies employed by the Consortium began in 2012, with the organizing of the first Annual Asia Regional Pro Bono Conference in Laos. This Conference remains a trademark of the Asia region, where appropriate and committed Consortium partners are chosen, each year, to host the event. After being hosted, 2012 in Laos, 2013 in Vietnam and 2014 in Singapore this year’s Conference, the ‘4th Asia Pro Bono Conference and Legal Ethics Forum’, was held on the 3-6 September, 2015 in Mandalay, Myanmar. The Conference continued to expand on the amazing work successfully achieved at the past three events. This year, and year’s going forward, there was and will be a day specifically dedicated to legal ethics and professional responsibility and its intersection with the pro bono movement. Of course, other days and sessions included the mainstreaming of legal ethics and professional responsibility but this event also included a core focus of this intersection on Day 4. Furthermore, building on the success of the last three years, Day 3 of the Conference had an entire day devoted to Pro Bono and Legal Education. In doing all this the Consortium saw this year’s event as a genuine catalyst for pro bono opportunities, legal education reform and access to justice improvements.
We had more than 250 participants, from Myanmar and around the globe, to attend the conference. Targeted participants were lawyers, judges, legal educators, students, corporations, governmental officers, international NGO representatives , and members of local civil society organizations. With the vast number of participants, and the various perspectives that these participants brought to the event.
One of those important elements of the event was the support from various law firms, corporations and individuals. Such support was invaluable to the success of the event, because it will allowed the attendance of individuals, who otherwise could not afford to travel to the Conference site. This support was a strong demonstration of the stability of pro bono, through the People, Private and Public Collective Impact approach, in which sponsors received recognition and appreciation, for fulfilling their social responsibility.