Lawyers working in-house at international non-profit organisations (INGO lawyers) are usually responsible for a vast array of legal issues across many countries worldwide.
With few resources, but many lives at stake, they need to make practical decisions quickly, sometimes in very challenging contexts. Even where the law is clear, finding a way to resolve differences across jurisdictions may be difficult.
In-house lawyers at large companies are familiar with the challenge of finding practical answers to complex real-life problems. Usually, they will have more financial and human resources available to find answers. Many of them are keen to share their experience and ideas with organisations which are seeking to eradicate poverty and bring about thriving economies in the poorest parts of the world.
This peer mentoring scheme has been developed by A4ID to bring together these two groups to share practical ideas about how to respond to the many and varied complex legal issues facing the INGO lawyers. It does not involve the provision of legal advice. In a relational context, our hope is that ways to apply the law can be discussed and that, through this, INGO lawyers can be supported in their role.
Usually, the mentoring will be between one INGO lawyer and one in-house corporate lawyer. However, sometimes it will make sense to bring in others who are part of the legal function at each organisation because of their expertise, responsibility for an area discussed or as back-up if either of the primary participators is away.
The relationship between the lawyers participating in this scheme is one of equals, of peers. It may be that the INGO lawyer has more years of experience than that in-house corporate lawyer. A4ID envisages that the first meeting between the lawyers will be relatively informal, perhaps at the office of the NGO. At that meeting, the frequency and nature of contact should be discussed and agreed upon. The final page of this document provides space to record that agreement. A copy should then be provided to A4ID.
While the arrangement may become indefinite, an initial period should be agreed upon, after which a brief review should take place, to confirm both lawyers and their organisations are willing and able to continue. It is recognised that there may be situations, for example, a direct conflict of interest arising, that requires the relationship to cease, even though advice is not being provided.
The mentoring process and the guidance provided by the in-house lawyers is designed for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice, and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for legal advice relevant to particular circumstances.
The mentoring process however may bring up areas where legal advice is needed, and in this case, where the INGO lawyer needs external pro bono lawyers to advise on the matter, it is expected that they will return to A4ID to discuss how such advice might be found.
To be clear, the in-house corporate lawyer does not have the relevant insurance or structures around them to undertake this advice and A4ID accepts no responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information, guidance or documentation provided by one party to the other as part of the mentoring process. Where appropriate, A4ID will seek to continue to involve the in-house corporate legal team in any advice-giving, for example, in conjunction with a law firm, however, A4ID provides no guarantee, warranty or representation as to the accuracy or quality of the advice provided by any external pro bono lawyer or law firm, or in relation to the outcome of any legal matter.
If there are any difficulties in the relationship, each lawyer is welcome to contact A4ID about the matter. A4ID will seek feedback from each person involved from time to time and it is a condition of participation that cooperation is given to this process.
This programme is offered to A4ID’s legal and development partners.
If you already work for one of our partners, please contact email@example.com to participate in this mentoring programme.