By: Patricia Brannan and Linda Lloyd Da Silva Issue: Collaborative Leadership Section: Business
Working with Communities and Partners to Build a Future of Hope
Approximately 2.6 billion people—more than 40 percent of the world’s population—live on less than $2 a day. What’s worse, even though some countries have made progress towards economic equality for their citizens, more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where the income gap is widening. The richest 40 percent of people in the world take in 75 percent of the world’s total income, while the poorest 40 percent earn less than 10 percent of the income.
In this harsh setting, low to no income, hardworking parents in the poorest parts of the world cannot feed, educate, and provide health care for their children which causes decreased access to health care, fewer children attending school, and higher instances of malnourishment and stunting in children. These children face the life-long consequences of chronic poverty and prolonged malnutrition: increased susceptibility to disease, chronic fatigue and anemia and poor motor and cognitive skills. This insidious poverty that affects individual families begets impoverished nations that are unable to create lasting solutions to the complex problems of development, social equality and justice.
Organizations like World Vision have been working with the marginalized poor for decades. Since its founding in 1950, World Vision has been partnered together with communities and governments to make a serious and sustainable impact on poverty and its causes, especially as they affect children. World Vision began its international work as a child sponsorship organization responding to the needs of hundreds of thousands of orphans at the end of the Korean War. Over the next several decades, World Vision expanded its work throughout Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Resources from child sponsorship assisted poor children and their families with food, education, health care and vocational training. Today, 3.8 million children, their families and communities benefit from World Vision’s community development programs that focus on vital needs such as food, security, water, sanitation, education, health, leadership training and income generation.
In recent years, World Vision expanded its community development work to include advocacy efforts, focused particularly on issues related to child survival and poverty alleviation. It became more active in working with governments, businesses and other organizations in addressing issues such as child labor, children in armed conflict and the sexual exploitation of women and children.
In fact, World Vision and its microfinance subsidiary VisionFund International, has become a leading humanitarian and advocacy organization with some 40,000 global members, including part-time and temporary staff and employees of microfinance institutions, to implement these programs in nearly 100 countries.
Committed to long-term change, World Vision consciously connects people. Whether by enabling people through microfinance networks, or linking donors in rich countries to children and families in poorer countries through child sponsorship, or by matching communities with major private, foundation, or corporate donors wanting to invest in large scale initiatives in agriculture, water or health, or by creating networks of caring individuals that campaign for changes to unjust economic and development policies, World Vision believes that getting people connected is the best way to make a difference.
World Vision’s relationship with Hogan Lovells, an international law firm, is one example of partnership that ultimately has positive effects on impoverished communities, and that is especially valuable during difficult economic times.
As with any complex global organization, World Vision faces a myriad of constant legal issues, notwithstanding its nonprofit and humanitarian status. To mitigate these issues, Hogan Lovells manages against the ever present threats and potential for legal complications that come from ongoing and routine employment law and contract review matters, its corporate governance and connections issues among the multiple legal entities which constitute the World Vision global structure, its registration and the protection of the trademarked name and logo, and its regulatory compliance.
Because quality legal advice and support can be very expensive, and because every dollar spent on legal services generally is considered “overhead,” World Vision began looking for law firms that were able to provide the necessary pro bono professional support, while supporting its mission to the poor and marginalized of the world. So, in late 2007, Hogan Lovells committed their expertise to the organization. The General Counsel for World Vision International (WVI), Tim Burgett, reconnected with a fellow member of the University of Virginia School of Law, class of 1989, Kim Reed, who was then an attorney in Hogan & Hartson’s Moscow office. Their initial conversations led to more extensive discussions with the Hogan partner who headed up the firm’s Community Services Department, Patricia Brannan. All agreed to a commitment to jointly pursue a significant partnership for pro bono legal services in numerous global jurisdictions for WVI
The relationship began on a somewhat limited basis with some employment law assistance from Hogan’s Moscow office, as well as intellectual property matters and discrete research projects from the firm’s Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. offices. As World Vision grew more adept at identifying issues where Hogan could assist, the connections between the two organizations continued to expand. And as the economy floundered in late 2008 and 2009, the value of the pro bono support by Hogan to World Vision was keenly felt.
Over the last two years, Hogan has provided significant services to WVI, including extensive employment law support from the Los Angeles office, as well as corporate, tax, and regulatory compliance advice from Washington D.C. Recently, WVI decided to establish a new office in London for its president and senior executives, so lawyers in the Hogan London office stepped up to provide substantial advice and support in the areas of corporate registration, tax, and employment.
When World Vision decided to join with other partners in pursuing an innovative approach to develop key software for the humanitarian industry by forming a low-profit limited liability company (L3C), Hogan’s Washington D.C. office supplied experienced lawyers to evaluate the corporate governance and ownership aspects. And when World Vision needed to analyze how it handled the personal data of some 3.8 million sponsored children, the Brussels office of Hogan coordinated a 70-country review of data privacy laws, often “twisting the arms” of correspondent law firms in countries without a Hogan presence to try and achieve pro bono or reduced cost services.
The relationship continues as Hogan & Hartson enters a new era. On May 1, 2010, Hogan & Hartson combined with London-based Lovells to form Hogan Lovells, which consists of an international legal practice including Hogan Lovells International LLP and Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP (referenced together as Hogan Lovells). Hogan Lovells now is comprised of 2,500 lawyers in more than 40 offices on four continents, making it an even stronger collaborative partner for World Vision’s global mission. The Hogan Lovells pro bono practice has an unmatched legacy of commitment to pro bono legal work. Forty years ago, Hogan & Hartson became the first law firm in the United States to form a separate practice dedicated to providing pro bono legal services for those in need. In 1997, Lovells became the first European law firm to hire a full-time lawyer to spearhead its pro bono program. The combined firms support the efforts of seven full-time lawyers whose only mission is to identify, staff, and develop meaningful pro bono work for Hogan Lovells’ lawyers.
The goal of the practice is to involve Hogan Lovells’ lawyers worldwide in legal work that draws upon their experience in order to improve the lives of those without access to justice or the means to hire lawyers, and to meet the legal needs of charities and nonprofit social enterprises. That practice enjoys the full support of Hogan Lovells’ management team. The new management of the combined firms identified good citizenship as a core value: “We embrace our responsibility to give back to our communities through pro bono and community service work and we are committed to a diverse workforce that is inclusive and welcoming.”
The future promise of the relationship is great, and it builds upon a firm foundation in the work done to date. “Hogan Lovells has become an integral and vital part of the efforts of my Legal Department to address the legal requirements of our World Vision clients,” says WVI General Counsel Burgett. “I especially appreciate the central coordination efforts of Pat Brannan, as my team knows that whenever we identify a need that potentially could be met by Hogan somewhere in the world, all we have to do is call Pat, and she runs it through the appropriate internal channels to see if a lawyer offering just the right practice background is available. Hogan lawyers are partnering with us to provide high-quality legal services at the lowest possible cost, so that World Vision can be as effective as possible in meeting the needs of the people it serves."