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Hogan & Hartson is spearheading a project to draw up commercial contract legislation for Afghanistan. In total the project involves over 100 lawyers and in addition to Hogan involves lawyers from Allen & Overy and Cleary Gottleib Steen & Hamilton and is being coordinated by Afghan Dechert lawyer Marium Nawabi.
The lawyers are working within a tight time-frame and the legislation is expected to be drawn up within the next couple of weeks. They are basing the legislation on civil and commercial codes written during the 1950s and 1960s. According to Steve Robinson, the Hogan partner leading the project on a pro bono basis, the codes are particularly strong on anti-bribery and corruption.
Robinson said: "The existing law is in pretty good shape and we can put it in line with Western standards. However, it hasn't been advanced for some two decades, and therefore it says nothing on, say, antitrust."
Robinson is working with the judiciary on the project on such issues as Shariah law, which he explained would be introduced into contracts where specified by clients.
Robinson has a lot of experience in drawing up legislation, including in Russia, where he drew up the country's securities laws. He is currently drawing up Western-compliant legislation in China. When Iraq occupied Kuwait, he assisted the government of Kuwait in exile in drawing up a procurement system for the regeneration of the country post-conflict.
This firm has shown a gutsy approach by maximising resources, both in terms of its own fee-earners' involvement and collaborative projects with other firms. It has launched projects in the hinterlands of difficult regions such as India, Russia and now Afghanistan, and consequently has made its mark in international pro bono work.
All Hogan & Hartson lawyers are expected to do a minimum of 100 hours of pro bono or community support work a year. The pro bono group, which forms the community service department, is coordinated by a partner who works full time for an indefinite period, but on average for three to four years, a senior associate working full time for 18 months, three full-time assistants working four-month stints, and two full-time legal assistants. Bob Duncan is the current partner in charge of the community support department. Four per cent of the firm's billing time is spent on pro bono work (the American Bar Association recommends 3 per cent).
The firm is known for its heavyweight pro bono projects in collaboration with other firms, aimed particularly at civil rights and homeless groups. Significant recent projects have included the establishment of the International Senior Lawyers Project, comprising retired and senior lawyers who advise developing countries on economic development, rule of law and human rights. Several of its Washington DC lawyers are assisting in the development, marketing and product liability issues relating to low-cost medical devices.