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Lawyers Raise $200,000 for Human Rights
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ACE Limited InsuranceAn insurance company’s unusual “pyramid scheme” has raised siginificant funds for global human rights organizations.

The legal department at Swiss insurance conglomerate ACE Limited created a novel program that leveraged contributions from in-house lawyers into a $200,000 donation for three public interest groups. According to ACE general counsel Robert Cusumano, the ACE Rule of Law Fund is the first privately funded corporate legal foundation.

The idea originated with Cusumano, who joined ACE three years ago after 25 years as a litigator at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett. He wanted to bring together his in-house lawyers and outside counsel to make a “tangible difference” in their legal communities.

  
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Cusumano first asked the in-house lawyers to make anonymous contributions to the fund; the general counsel personally matched those contributions. The company then matched that combined amount. Finally, eight selected law firms matched that total. In the end, each in-house lawyer’s contribution was multiplied 12 times through the matching. More than 50 ACE lawyers contributed, representing more than half the in-house staff.

The participating law firms were Clyde & Co, Cozen O’Connor, Debevoise & Plimpton, Ropes & Gray, Susman Godfrey, O’Melveny & Myers, DLA Piper, and Mayer Brown.

The beneficiaries include Human Rights Defenders, a program administered by Human Rights First to protect “at-risk” lawyers from harassment and incarceration; and the International Commission of Jurists in southern Africa. Funds will also be used to provide courtroom language translators for battered women working with the New York organization Sakhi for South Asian Women.

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