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Achievements

  • More than 500 law firms in 17 countries have signed onto the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas. This commits their lawyers -- more than 10,000 -- to providing legal representation of at least 20 hours per attorney per year free-of-charge to those who cannot afford it.

    Beginning in 2003, the Vance Center sought out lawyers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and other countries who shared the vision of a pro bono legal culture in Latin America. Together, the Vance Center and these partners drafted the Declaration, engaged colleagues, law firms, lawyers’ associations, and law schools to join them, and established a dozen pro bono clearinghouses throughout the region.

    The Inter-American Pro Bono Network, led by the Vance Center and Fundación Pro Bono Chile, now provides a broad range of legal services to hundreds of individuals and non-governmental organizations throughout the region annually. In 2012, the Network helped a Chilean woman successfully challenge her dismissal as a judge and the denial of custody of her children because of her sexual orientation before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights .
  • In 2010, South African lawyers from a population historically excluded from the mainstream legal profession established a fellowship network to support junior colleagues and promote pro bono engagement in social justice. These 38 lawyers of color are alumni of the South Africa Legal Fellows Program. Beginning in 2001, the Vance Center selected and placed promising South African attorneys of color in international law firms and corporate legal departments in New York City. The visiting lawyers work alongside U.S. colleagues to further their training and contacts. The program tackles the legacy of apartheid and spreads the spirit and practice of pro bono legal service, which now is taking root in South Africa.
  • Since 2006, hundreds of women lawyers in major countries in Latin America have gathered to discuss challenges to their advancement in the legal profession. For many, these discussions were unprecedented, even unimaginable. Networking, mentoring, peer support, practice specialization, and pro bono engagement all were novel and exciting strategies for empowerment.

    The Vance Center developed its Women in the Profession program based on a model at the New York City Bar Association and, with its regional partners, adapted it for Latin American lawyers. Conferences in Buenos Aires, Lima, Sao Paulo, Santiago, and Bogota brought together U.S. lawyers, bearing the experience of the diversity programs of international law firms, with Latin American women lawyers who all too often face significant obstacles to professional advancement. Women throughout the hemisphere now lead the empowerment effort and, in partnership with the Vance Center, are focusing on challenges to women in their countries beyond the legal profession.