Spark talks are intended to challenge our thinking of law’s potential, spark a spirit of public interest lawyering, and inspire us to be change agents both in our communities and around the world.
The 2018 Global Forum in Berlin featured three spark talks from thought-provoking legal professionals:
Pro Bono Frontiers: Helping Bhutan Create its First Law School by Jacquelyn MacLennan and Louis O’Neill, White & Case.
In 2017, as part of a nine-year partnership with White & Case, the King of Bhutan and the Princess of Bhutan worked together to officially open the first law school in the country. The law firm leveraged its resources to support and develop the curriculum, while preserving the country’s rich history, culture and traditions. Following a competitive application process, the top 25 finalists – 13 women and 12 men – out of 500 applicants became the first cohort of the newly established law school. Drawing on their local and international understanding of legal practice, these future lawyers will hopefully become the leading voices in promoting the rule of law in Bhutan. Forum participants were privileged to have a virtual viewing of Bhutan and the law school through a VR experience. This spark talk inspired participants to apply their legal expertise to create large scale change.
Providing Pro Bono Legal Assistance to Asylum Seekers in Lesvos by Phillip Worthington, European Lawyers in Lesvos.
Philip Worthington, European Lawyers in Lesvos. European Lawyers in Lesvos , an organization that provides pro bono assistance to asylum seekers in Lesvos, highlighted the role lawyers can play with the increased challenges of war, immigration, and safety. Understanding and applying asylum law can be the difference between life and death, so it is imperative that lawyers use their skills and knowledge to help asylum seekers. Lawyers who join this program work primarily on preparing asylees for their interviews – they listen to people’s stories and help them to articulate their cases to have the best chance possible at being granted asylum. The program also provides information sessions to inform migrants and refugees about family reunification laws. To date, European Lawyers in Lesvos have assisted over 8,400 people, in 3,966 cases, through over 32,400 voluntary hours contributed by 141 volunteers from 17 countries.
Making a Legal Contribution to Social Change: Using the Law to Support Abortion Law Reform in Ireland by Leah Hoctor, Center for Reproductive Rights.
The recent efforts by the Center for Reproductive Rights was a testament to using law for social change through constitutional reform in Ireland. The repeal campaign was centred on the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, which prohibited abortion. Every year, thousands of women had to travel outside of their country to access safe and legal abortion services given Ireland’s stringent laws around abortion. Using a creative approach of trying to create pressure in a hostile legal reality, the Center for Reproductive Rights supported two cases filed against Ireland with the UN Human Rights Committee. The committee instructed the government to provide remedies to the women involved in the cases who could not access abortion services at home. As a result, a Joint Oireachtas (Parliamentary) Committee was set up to discuss potential legislative changes around the 8th amendment and a constitutional referendum to remove the ban on abortion. Earlier this year, the referendum was passed in a landslide vote, thus paving the way for progressive legislation for abortion services in Ireland. The Irish journey in the lead up to the referendum and legislative change on abortion services is an example of how using untried legal mechanisms, being creative and brave, and reaching out for pro bono support can provide vital help to social justice and human rights campaigns.
“Without lawyers like you, this would not have been possible.” -Leah Hoctor