07 March 2019

Latin America's pro bono expansion and LGBT turning point

Pro bono survey reveals expansion in role of pro bono work, while pro bono group hails turning point for LGBT families in the region.

After some delay, due to a revamp of questions posed,130 law firms participated across Latin America in the latest annual Vance Center/Latin Lawyer pro bono survey, covering 2017 The results indicate continued progress in expanding and institutionalising pro bono practice throughout the region. Also in the region, AMAmericas reports on a human rights hearing that is a turning point for LGBT families.

Fundamental work

With 85 per cent of responding law firms reporting having a pro bono coordinator on staff in 2017 and 78 per cent reporting measurement of their pro bono work, firms increasingly consider pro bono engagement as a fundamental component of their overall practice. For many, pro bono work also functions as the cornerstone of their community engagement and corporate social responsibility efforts. Survey results also highlight the role of the Pro Bono Network of the Americas clearinghouse members, the Vance Center’s partners in the region: 81 per cent of participating law firms are members of a local clearinghouse; and 62 per cent make financial contributions to support the work of those organizations. Based on feedback from Network clearinghouses, the Vance Center and Latin Lawyer identified 51 law firms demonstrating outstanding pro bono work as Leading Lights. The report can be found here.

Tragic history

In a status update, AMAmericas, informal alliance of pro bono lawyers working since 2012 to secure the right for marriage equality in Latin American countries, stated it has pursued legal actions in Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Chile. AMAmericas requested and appeared before a thematic hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which took place in December 2018, during the 170th session of the IACHR.  In collaboration with NGO representatives from Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico, AMAmericas representatives presented a report on the current status of legal protection for LGBT families. In his opening statement, Hunter Carter,  a partner at Arent Fox, referred to the hearing as a turning point in the long and infamous history of discrimination against LGBT people. He asserted that, through action by the Commission, ‘we can finally bring an end to that tragic history.’