INNOVATION CAN HELP ALL CORNERS of the legal world, but where it may help the most is in enabling pro bono teams to better serve communities in need, and make a lasting difference.
Mayer Brown and Caterpillar were named as 2016 Pro Bono Innovators for their work on the Forced Marriage Project, an initiative for the The Tahirih Justice Center, a non-profit focused on protecting women and girls from gender-based violence. Mayer Brown and Caterpillar first partnered to provide pro bono work to Medair, an international relief organization that brings aid to remote and devastated communities. This in turn brought the firms to Tahirih and began them on a path to creating PreventForcedMarriage.org, an interactive website and resource for victims of forced manages and those interested in helping victims of forced marriages.
We formed teams consisting of two to three lawyers from each organization to cover the research for each of the 25 countries, using a template developed by Mayer Brown, Caterpillar, and Tahirih to provide uniformity to the research being conducted,” says Marcia Tavares Maack, director of pro bono activities for Mayer Brown. “The whole effort comprised over 80 attorneys and took over 3,050 hours.”
The online resource was launched in February 2015, with interactive maps providing information on each country’s forced marriage laws and efforts to help local lawyers and aid organizations, as well as a “get help” link that acts as a 24-hour emergency contact for victims. Since its launch, Mayer Brown notes the website has received over 6,720 visitors and over 15,430 views.
“The research is already having a lifesaving impact—it is helping people who are facing forced marriage overseas find safety, dignity and freedom,” says Mike Sposato, deputy general counsel of Caterpillar .
“The Forced Marriage Overseas Map is a pragmatic, groundbreaking approach that puts practical tools directly in the hands of those who most need them—when they most need them,” he adds. “It directly empowers those most affected and allows more people to join together in fighting this global human rights issue.” —Ricci Dipshan