I was fortunate to take part in the 4th Asia Pro Bono Conference & Legal Ethics Forum, in Mandalay, Myanmar. The conference theme was “Building a Noble Legal Profession”. A global consortium, comprising local and international lawyers, law firms, government and non-government personnel, intergovernmental agencies, university academics, law students, and the companies and individuals from the for-profit sector, helped put on this terrific event.
This was a fantastic four day opportunity, for all organisational and country stakeholders, to learn from each other, share knowledge, and arrive at common understandings about how best to promote and foster a strong regional pro bono and ethics culture. Presentations were designed to be interactive and to engage the audience as much as possible. This engagement ensured that attendees took part in discussions, and this led to more lively, informative, and entertaining sessions, than at a usual conference, where a straight forward panel session is the norm. This interactive presentation approach led to a more collaborative feel, and fostered a particular atmosphere, amongst attendees, that encouraged knowledge sharing and strengthened the sense of a common purpose.
The first two days dealt with a variety of issues, in the plenary and breakout sessions including: the role that pro bono and ethics play in building a noble legal profession; international law firms and lawyers working with local lawyers in pro bono projects; small firm pro bono; the relationship between pro bono and legal aid; pro bono and the right to health; and many others. The third day focused on pro bono and legal education. Truly amazing was the commitment and passion to the pro bono cause and access to justice issues, from regional law students who showcased their work. The final day was devoted to the intersection of legal ethics and professional responsibility with the pro bono movement. Adrian Evans, Leah Wortham, and Roger Normand conducted an engaging plenary session that led to other sessions, throughout the day, which engaged audience members on key topics, such as duty to the court, duty to the client, regulations and sanctions of the legal profession, and client-centered lawyering.
An inspiring highlight, for me, was talking to senior Myanmar lawyers, who persevered, despite the challenges and struggles they endured, yet continued to lead the next generation of lawyers, by fine example, through helping the needy and doing local community pro bono work. These encounters made a lasting impression on me, and I also learned from their example.
Overall, this conference demonstrates that there is a real appetite and drive for ethics and pro bono training and sharing, at both regional and international levels. This commitment, from the legal profession, legal educators, students, corporations, governmental officers, international NGO representatives, and members of local civil society organizations is extremely heartening. It shows that, if we continue to collaborate, share, and gain strength from each other, we can build upon and develop the noble profession of lawyering, together.
By Freda Grealy, Solicitor, Head of Diploma Centre, Law Society of Ireland