Hogan Lovells brings Paralympics and Haiti together for first time

The Paralympics will be screened in Haiti for the first time this year due to the work of Hogan Lovells lawyer Colin Graham.

The finance practice of counsel has been leading a pro-bono project with disability initiative The Dream and other charities to help disabled people in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

The firm had helped set up the Disability Sport for Development (DSD) charity to target countries with a very low penetration of disabled sport by supporting athletes and building facilities.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians were injured in the disaster.

Graham has worked with The Dream, the Haitian National Paralympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee to get a small team of disabled athletes – a male javelin thrower and a female javelin and shotput competitor – to London 2012, the first time the country has been represented at the Paralympics.

An additional challenge was to obtain the TV rights to broadcast the Paralympic Games in Haiti and Graham was instructed by DSD to use its funds to seal a deal to show the events on national TV. That deal is set to be approved by LOCOG this week and Graham has also been liaising with the UN to arrange for giant screens to be placed in city centres.

Graham said: “We’re working on initiatives to try to change perceptions in Haiti that disabled people should not be treated as second class citizens so that people are prepared to offer jobs and see them as valuable members of society.

“This has been a great piece of work from the point of view of seeing a project from its infancy right the way through. Enabling these athletes to perform for their country and be seen by a wide range of people is very rewarding.”

Hogan Lovells associate Francesca Porter is currently seconded to the British Paralympic Association and is busy drafting commercial agreements for athletes, teams and sponsors.

Porter first got involved in the London 2012 Paralympic sphere with a piece of pro-bono work helping a Gurkha who was injured in Afghanistan represent Team GB despite not having a British passport.

Her work could include advising on disputes over classifications of athletes.

She said: “How a person is evaluated in terms of disability can be quite fluid. An athlete excelling at one level can find themselves in a new classification group following a review of their disability and suddenly not doing as well and maybe not even being selected. It can be quite contentious.”

Porter is also advising in an ongoing IP dispute and said the unique challenges have broadened her legal horizons.

During the Games she will be permanently based on site with Hogan Lovells colleague Richard Welfare, a partner and Paralympics on-site legal advisor, managing hospitality when she is not required for her legal expertise.

A number of other firms are part of a pro-bono panel sitting throughout the summer to act on any legal action arising during the Games (1 August 2012).