Partner Vic Schachter was profiled by Super Lawyers for his pro bono work launching mediation centers in emerging democracies - an ongoing project that also earned him national recognition as one of four individuals in the United States honored by Super Lawyers Pro Bono Awards.
The article describes how Schachter came to launch the Foundation for Sustainable Rule of Law Initiatives (FSRI) in 2012, after previously serving as a project director to start a mediation center in Delhi, India, where he faced some unique challenges, such as plentiful and aggressive monkeys inhabiting the mediation center and a six-month strike by local bar attorneys who feared the center would eliminate their litigation work.
Based on that experience, Schachter told Super Lawyers he developed a few different approaches. For example, he said FSRI “now invite[s] the bar associations and the leaders in the bar, as well as leaders in the judiciary, and of course the litigants themselves, to participate in the process of establishing the center and its procedures.”
Schachter puts about 1,000 hours a year into the program and travels to India often to assess, coach and counsel improvement at the centers. However, host country administration is key to the sustainability he seeks, so FSRI emphasizes the need for local control, management and operation of the center.
“There are many other programs [with] a cookiecutter view of the way it should be, and they try to impose their system, which doesn't necessarily fit the culture,” he said. “More importantly, after they leave, it falls apart because it’s not really embraced.”
The Indian mediation centers have processed over 150,000 cases, and 60 to 65 percent of the mediated matters are settled.
“These centres allow people, who otherwise do not have the kind of wealth or power, to get their cases heard,” he said, noting that the backlog in Indian courts can be up to 20 years.
Schachter has worked on mediation initiatives in Istanbul, Malaysia, Brazil, Bulgaria and Kosovo, and FSRI has been invited to expand its work in many new locations.
“The satisfaction that I get now, after 47 years of litigating, in bringing parties together where their personal and human rights are so directly affected,” Schachter told Super Lawyers, “is a satisfaction which is every bit as high as winning a big litigation matter. Because it's a win-win for all sides.”
The full article is available through the Super Lawyers website.