PILnet’s 3rd Annual Asia Pro Bono Forum took place in Bali on 29-30 August 2016 with over 230 participants from 24 countries, the biggest and most diverse Forum so far. The central theme for this year’s Forum was Lawyers as Innovators: Charting New Frontiers in Pro Bono, as we wanted to explore how pro bono support can be more innovative in addressing complex and persistent social justice issues like anti-trafficking, as well as exploring new channels of addressing grievances such as the emerging framework of Business & Human Rights.
Asma Jahangir, a leading human rights lawyer and the first elected female president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, opened the Forum with her experiences performing pro bono work (video here). The work of a pro bono lawyer is not simply going to court and fighting a case. She maintained a pro bono lawyer is also an advocate for human rights.
This session looked at how applicable is “the business case for pro bono” to the Asia context, namely the argument that doing pro bono makes business sense for a law firm. Ultimately this is a question about what will motivate law firms and lawyers best to embrace pro bono, especially at an early stage of pro bono development. You can watch a video of the thought-provoking discussion here.
A modern-day abolitionist and freedom fighter from the Philippines, Ms. Flores-Oebanda told poignant stories from her 25 years of experience in anti-trafficking (video here). Vitit Muntarbhorn, an international human rights expert, shared five snapshots from his life that have brought him to this point in his life and the lessons to be learned from these moments (video here). From his time as a teen volunteering with senior citizens to his experience helping refugees crossing the border of Cambodia, Professor Vitit connected these moments with the recurrent thought:
Todung Mulya Lubis, a revered human rights activist from Indonesia, emphasized “it is our duty as members of the legal profession to provide pro bono legal assistance to those who are in need” and called on bar associations to play a bigger role to support advocates in doing pro bono (video here). Michael Kirby, a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, wowed us with his speech “20 Big Ideas on Pro Bono Lawyering: Boring, Bold and Brave,” listing 20 ideas from speakers and comments that he had marked down during the Forum (video here).