Lawyers from Linklaters´ Madrid office have contributed to a firm-wide pro-bono project to produce an indexed digest of the entire jurisprudence of Liberia.
A statement from the firm said a total of 200 Linklaters lawyers – from the firm´s Madrid, New York, London, Dubai, Hong Kong, Milan, Moscow and Paris offices had, over a period of five years, contributed more than 5,800 pro bono hours to “foster access to justice and economic development in Liberia”.
The statement added that as a result of the effort, judges and lawyers are now able to “access, consider and build upon Liberian case precedent, reinstituting the foundation that was abruptly abandoned during the political upheaval and civil wars under Charles Taylor”.
Kathryn Ludlow, Linklaters partner and the firm´s global head of pro bono, said that much of the firm´s pro bono work was directed towards sustaining the rule of law, which was “especially pertinent in the year in which we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the granting of Magna Carta”.
Volunteer group Lawyers Without Borders conducted an initial scoping exercise before the digest project began – the group consulted with the Chief Justice and uncovered a critical need for an index and case digest to be made accessible to the judiciary. Lawyers Without Borders secured “seed project underwriting” from the World Bank.
The Liberian legal system is rooted in common law and is precedent-driven. Until recently, the lack of a comprehensive index to case law from the 1860s onwards, compounded by lack of access to court decisions in remote areas, posed a significant challenge to the doctrine of precedent.
The volunteer lawyers produced a key-word index accompanied by case summaries covering over 3,700 Liberian cases from the 1860s onwards. As a result, a case digest and index have been published and hard copies have been distributed to every judge throughout the cities and rural areas of Liberia, to the Law School in Monrovia as well as Yale and Cornell universities and the US embassy in Liberia.
However, according to Linklaters, continued national electricity and internet connectivity problems are hampering the longer term goal of making the digest and index available online.
Linklaters said the value of the pro bono time its lawyers had spent on the project was $1.5 million to date.