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December, 2001

Launching a Pro Bono Program in El Salvador
Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP

Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw counsel Hector Gonzalez traveled to El Salvador in June as part of a groundbreaking effort to launch a pro bono program with 10 Salvadorian law firms. The effort grew out of a request by the Public Affairs Office of the U.S. embassy in El Salvador.

Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw Pro Bono Director Marc Kadish was initially contacted by the American Bar Association Center for Pro Bono, which forwarded the embassy request to attend the first Pro Bono Conference in Central America. The embassy, the Human Rights Institute at the Central American University, and the National Office of Public Defenders and Family Lawyers jointly sponsored the conference.

Hector met with lawyers from several of the largest law firms in the capital city of San Salvador. He also met with representatives of the Human Rights Institute at the university and was a featured speaker at a breakfast sponsored by the U.S. embassy that also included the Procurador General (the public defender for the country).

During his meetings with the law firms, Hector discussed how U.S. firms handle pro bono matters and the benefits of establishing a pro bono program. The initial goal of the program is to sign up the ten largest law firms in the country (the largest of which has about 20 lawyers). Each firm is expected initially to take on two cases per year. The Human Rights Institute is the organization that will serve as the feeder group sending cases to the participating law firms.

"We believe this is the first time that such a concerted effort has been made to initiate a pro bono program anywhere in Central America," said Hector. "All of the firms expressed their interest in participating. It was a great opportunity to be part of such a worthy program right from its inception and to share with these firms the benefits of doing pro bono work."

The U.S. embassy is expected to encourage the effort by making information about participating San Salvador law firms available to U.S. companies seeking local legal counsel in El Salvador. The law firms are expected to take on a variety of cases ranging from civil suits, land rights, inheritance to other matters.

In an unrelated case, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw lawyers are also involved in human rights litigation stemming from the murder of missionaries in El Salvador. Philip Lacovara, Peter Choharis and Julie McConnell are representing families of four missionary women in a suit against the commanders of the soldiers convicted of raping and murdering them in 1980. That case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

"It was a great opportunity to be part of such a worthy program right from its inception and to share with these firms the benefits of doing pro bono work."

-Hector Gonzalez

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