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    February 4, 2008  


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Hey, all of you out there who practice in Washington because you like to imbibe policy stuff:  The State Department is looking for a few good lawyers—and best of all, you can keep your better-paying day job.  Foggy Bottom has launched a high profile public-private partnership to help re-establish the rule of law in Afghanistan.  Its plan:  Provide key training to Aghan prosecutors, defense lawyers, bar officials, and judges.  And they need American legal experts to help.  (Plus a little money from law firms that's fully tax deductible.)



Launched by Secretary Rice at this Ben Franklin Room ceremony in December, the effort is co-chaired by Arent Fox LA partner Robert O'Brien (at the podium), a former UN representative specializing in terrorism issues; and former Brian Cave partner Tom Schweich (seated to right), now principal deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement (INL).  State is not new to this approach:  It has used pharmaceutical companies to help alleviate pediatric AIDS, and top sporting bodies like the MLB and NBA to do baseball and basketball clinics in developing countries. A top need now is to bring over 15-20 Afghan prosecutors for four weeks of training this summer in such things as investigatory and courtroom techniques, taught by attorneys, academics, and judges at the University of Utah, whose dean, Hiram Chodsh, has offered seed money, space, and faculty.



Robert knew Tom during overlapping UN tenures in the 2005-2006.  Robert served a major in the US Army Reserve JAG Corps, worked in Skadden LA office from '91 to '96, then from '96-'98 in Geneva as a legal officer at the UN Security Council, helping decide claims  against Iraq after the First Gulf War. Afterwards he co-founded O'Brien Abeles, an LA-based boutique specializing in commercial litigation, copyright disputes, and entertainment, with clients like Novell, Buzz Aldrin, and HBO, that merged into Arent Fox last year to become the basis for its now 22-attorney office at Fifth and Grand.



As one of three public delegates to the UN in '05-'06, Robert escorted foreign ambassadors from the likes of Russia, Nigeria, Tonga and Bulgaria on visits around the country, and here proudly shows Admiral Singh, Commander of the Indian Cost Guard, the Statue of Liberty.  Together with Amb. Schweich, he's actively looking for top talent from Am Law 200 firms, plaintiff firms, and boutique firms, including some to sit on the effort's executive board with several federal judges, such as David Carter and Steve Larson of the Central District of California, who've had experience in parallel environments like Bosnia and Uzbekistan.  Several major law firms are stepping forward with monetary contributions; they are being asked to commit $25k in each of two successive years. Unlike other pro bono activities, there is a need not just for manpower but cash; funds go to the State Department gift fund to help offset purchases of travel, security, food, translators, and transportation.  But even volunteers unattached to law firm donations are welcomed.  Executive Board members will get briefings at State, a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience, and the tangible chance to make the world a better place.

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Andrews Kurth
Cardinal Bank

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