This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Mexico City with New Perimeter Director and Pro Bono Partner Lisa Dewey, to participate in New Perimeter’s project with Mexico Appleseed to expand the culture of pro bono in Mexico.
On our first day, our colleagues in DLA Piper’s office in Mexico City hosted a roundtable discussion with other leaders of Mexico’s pro bono community. We heard from a variety of professionals, including a pro bono counsel at an international law firm, board members and other representatives from civil society organizations, and partners and associates at law firms. Lisa gave a great overview of pro bono in the United States and at DLA Piper. This inspired a great conversation about challenges to developing pro bono practices in Mexico. Specifically, the discussion focused on (1) how to engage all individuals in the legal community – from law students to senior partners – in pro bono; (2) how to prepare pro bono attorneys for doing pro bono, whether through formal trainings, mentorship and co-counseling with legal services organizations, or the use of technology; and (3) how to loop legal communities in suburban and rural areas to pro bono networks in cities. Everyone left the discussion with a lot to think about – I know I did!
Over the next two days, Lisa and I taught two classes to law students at Universidad Panamericana (UP) and Tecnológico de Monterrey (Tec), providing a general overview of pro bono. I also spoke about providing transactional pro bono assistance to small businesses and social enterprises. Lisa and I were conscious of the fact that many of the students would have come to class after a full day of work – many Mexican law students intern at law firms while in law school – and therefore may be less energetic. But I was amazed at the energy and depth with which the students participated. When we asked the students at Tec how they ever found time to sleep, they responded, “We don’t!”
The Tec students were very interested in the recently-implemented 50-hour pro bono requirement that is required of all applicants to the New York bar. I was the first class of law school graduates to comply with this requirement, so I spoke about my experience and my observations of how it has affected pro bono amongst law students. The students and professor had questions about what this requirement looks like in practice, how to keep track of those 50 hours, where to perform these 50 hours, and the practical effects of this requirement.
Lisa Dewey (Washington, DC) and Ruchi Shah (New York) at the Universidad Panamericana
As a Krantz fellow, I have spent the entire past year working solely on pro bono projects. I have learned so much about pro bono in the U.S. and in New York City. This trip challenged many of the assumptions I held about doing pro bono, both as a law student and a young lawyer. I am grateful to New Perimeter for the opportunity and am excited to follow the future of pro bono in Mexico!