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The importance of lawyers in the pursuit of development

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To say that global development is a challenging affair is quite an understatement. The pursuit of it is so complex and so vast in scope that it requires the constant cooperation of various organizations across all countries in every continent. The need for high-impact services from individuals in the academic, social, public and private institutions is ever-growing.

“We need everybody,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim once said. “We need writers who can write about this. We need engineers. We need doctors. We need lawyers. We need artists. We need everybody who can capture the imagination of the world to end poverty.”

Of course, the comprehensive legal knowledge and reasoning skills of lawyers are among the most valued in the pursuit of development, especially among nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. As Christopher Colford, a communications officer at World Bank, put it in an article published by the World Economic Forum, “The legal acumen that helps for-profit law firms succeed in the marketplace is often sought by nonprofits, human-services groups and human-rights advocates.”

“Lawyers’ skills can often make a crucial difference for organizations that deal with social priorities — whether it’s by tackling complex challenges like protecting refugees or defending prisoners of conscience, or by pursuing routine tasks like negotiating an office-space lease or reviewing an employment contract.”

While the idea of pro bono work among lawyers is neither a new nor a groundbreaking one, with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and all the disruption it has brought with it to industries on a global scale, the value of skills-based volunteerism may have a larger effect on society than before.

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“The social cause one chooses does not matter. It might be public health, climate change, education, government accountability, LGBT rights or animal welfare,” Matteo Mascolo, project manager of the advocacy and skill-sharing group The Good Lobby, wrote for the World Economic Forum.

“What matters is that skill-based volunteerism pushes individuals to go beyond the simple, one-click form of engagement and instead enables them to use their experience, skills, ideas, entrepreneurial mind-set, and imagination to improve society. In this sense, skills-based volunteering fosters new forms of civic engagement and paves the way for active citizenship.”

Additionally, Mr. Mascolo wrote, skills-based volunteerism allows individuals to thrive in a fast-changing, often unpredictable work ecosystem that has been defined as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

This growth is crucial in a field of expertise like law, which faces a growing threat from the emergence of technological advancements like artificial intelligence and machine learning. As machines become more sophisticated at understanding and delivering legal services, lawyers must evolve and adapt to offer higher-value services to their communities. Social work through volunteerism, and continuous growth through civic engagement through it, is one method of doing just that.

“Lawyers’ knowledge and problem-solving ability can surely make a strong contribution to the wide-ranging package of skills that are needed to promote development, advance democracy and uphold the rule of law worldwide,” Mr. Colford wrote.

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