Corporate Lawyer on the Loose: Becoming a Social Entrepreneur

Figuring out life after graduation, whether we are LLMs or JDs, can be a bit daunting for most of us. Law school has the potential to make us more risk-averse, so we want to have a plan, and a back-up plan, and a back-up plan for the back-up plan.

LIDS and SELA helped students see a different perspective on November 13th, 2014 by presenting Benjamin Stone, Co-founder & Vice Chairman of Indego Africa, Director of Strategy & General Counsel of MCE Social Capital, and co-founder of Dollar a Day.Mr. Stone graduated from New York University School of Law in 2004, and completed the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship in 2010.

In 2006 he was a practicing attorney working at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, when he decided to leave his job and start Indego Africa, a non-profit social enterprise which helps women in Rwanda earn a living by facilitating market access and providing business education. Despite a few hick-ups, since it’s launch Indego has helped female artisans sell their product online at various stores including Anthropologie, DANNIJO, J.Crew, Madewell, and Nicole Miller.

Mr. Stone admited that if he could do it all over again, he would do things differently, but was also adament that the only way to figure this out is by just going out and doing it. He advised students not to overplan, noting that lots of people map out hundreds of ideas but never actually get started. Just do it and be okay with failure. Put yourself out there in an uncomfortable situation and when you find something wrong, recognize it and learn to do it better.

It is no surprise Indego Africa is such a success. Mr. Stone certaintly gave me food for thought.


‘Humanitarian and NBA Superstar Dikembe Mutombo talks about his development work around the globe’

Everyday Harvard Law School students have many options to attend talks organized by different organizations. On Oct. 23, LIDS, International Legal Studies and the Harvard African Law Association brought in former basketball star Dikembe Mutombo. As expected, the room was packed. Of course, his basketball career is fascinating, from a person without any previous experience in basketball he became one of the top stars of the NBA, but what I am most impressed with is his work of the court.

In 1997 he opened a foundation to address the issues of health care and education, and in 2006 his foundation was able to open a modern hospital in Kinshasa. During his talk he highlighted some of the most urgent issues on the African continent: Ebola, health care and education issues. Having played basketball for 18 years, becoming a star and having constant attention of media, he used his powerful voice to call for changes. He raises funds continuously, and absolutely refuses to give up when it comes to helping the people of his home country, or any of the other countries where he serves as an NBA ambassador. I believe his strength comes from the moral reward he receives from people in many countries.

During his talk, Mr. Mutombo said: “Together we can change the world”, a phrase that seems overused and cliché. But coming from a person whose actions prove their words time and again, it was very powerful. He also highlighted that the opportunity to study at one of the best universities comes with a responsibility towards others. And as he finished, he left us with the parting words: “Try to get involved, do not stay aside saying it doesn’t concern me, there is no “their problem”, you have an opportunity and we need you”.

Very refreshing, very inspirational! Good luck in your endeavors Mr. Mutobmo!

Welcome New Students!

First of all, congratulations and welcome! We are the Harvard Law and International Development Society—a diverse mix of students from Harvard Law School, the Kennedy School of Government, the Tufts Fletcher School, and other graduate schools in Boston who share a passion for the challenges and opportunities that lie at the intersection of law, policy and international development. We are firmly committed to two goals: making a difference in international development and providing our members with opportunities to get involved in hands-on, exciting and high-impact work in a field of their choice. Whether you have experience in international development or are interested in learning more about it, we would like to invite you to learn more about the work we do and meet some of our members. We look forward to getting to know you all this fall!

There are three main ways to get involved with LIDS as a new student at one of our member schools:

1)     Work on a LIDS-Orrick project. Join a group of 5-10 graduate students and work directly with a senior client at one of our partners—generally, a development-focused NGO, IGO, or an entrepreneur serving the bottom of the pyramid. LIDS projects are excellent opportunities to become an expert on an exciting development issue, hone research and writing skills, become a great team player and build a professional network. (And, according to our members, they’re also a lot of fun!)

2)     Join the LIDS Live Committee. Our website is the first page to appear when searching Google for “law and international development.” We get an incredible amount of traffic on our website, and it has become a stopping point for people looking for more information on the topic. As a member of the LIDS Live Committee, you will produce content for our signature blog, LIDS Live, and/or reach out to academics and practitioners to write posts. This committee can be a great way to get your name out there in the law and development sphere and to network with people in the field!

3)     Join the Events Committee. Members of the Events Committee will help plan and execute our two signature events—the Symposium and the International Women’s Day Exhibit, as well as a number of smaller events throughout the year.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please join LIDS on Monday, Sept. 22 from 7-8:30pm in WCC 1010 (at HLS) at our information session, which will be followed by a happy hour! Please note that this event is mandatory for people who want to participate in projects (if you have a conflicting class, please contact Carol and/or Sam to ensure you have the necessary information to apply).

Hope to see you at one of the LIDS events this fall, and best of luck!


Sarah Weiner and Beth Nehrling

LIDS Co-Presidents

Whose Custom, Whose Law, Whose Land?

Colonial and apartheid policies in South Africa have had lasting – and complex – impact on indigenous customary law, and with it, on indigent people’s access to land.

“Customary law” is a general term referring to the indigenous or local customs and traditions (i.e. laws) of peoples that live communally. Under colonial rule in South Africa, customary law was given a third class status beneath western-imported British common law and Roman-Dutch civil law. Colonial rulers superficially recognized native customs, but simultaneously supplanted them with western legal concepts such as the ownership of property by a single homestead through a deed or other written entitlement. As a general rule, the colonial government acknowledged indigenous leadership structures only to the extent that it benefitted its system of indirect rule. Hence, the government drew (often with little cultural understanding) firm ethnic and geographic boundaries around tribes, instating chiefs they knew to be subservient to colonial control, and declaring that tribe members could obtain land or other resources only through these tribes and chiefs. Apartheid deepened these distortions of traditional leadership and custom, locking native people within the physical and cultural bounds of tribes and chiefs whose power had been enhanced by colonial impact.

Following the dissolution of the apartheid government in the early 90s, South Africa’s new Constitution of 1994 for the first time placed customary law on equal footing with statutory and common law, declaring it, like those other sources of law, independent and subject only to the Constitution itself. On one level, this was a critical step for the recognition of indigenous rights and traditions, finally elevating them to equal status with western-created legal rights. But a significant challenge arose: what, after all the years of distortion, was “customary law” anyway? Which customs and traditions were “true” and worthy of being elevated under the Constitution?

This challenge has faced many African countries, and many have fallen into the trap of promoting customary law simply by recognizing the traditional leadership structures, lineages, and boundaries created by colonial governments. They have also approached custom as though it is static, seeking to impose – forever more – the same chief and traditions that existed in the 19th century. The problem, of course, is that the pyramidal structure of tribal power that facilitated colonial indirect rule was not actually indigenous, for scholars have revealed that in fact tribal leadership arrangements were often quite “democratic” and flexible. Today, determining who is leader of a tribe in South Africa has very tangible impacts: land is still owned through chiefs, meaning significant potential wealth – including mineral wealth – is held in the hands of an elite and ultra-powerful few, while the least empowered in society – the rural poor, women, and youth – have limited access to rights and resources.

In South Africa, the debate over the nature of custom is being fought today between the court system and the legislature. The parliamant – perhaps influenced by powerful constituencies – has passed laws since the early 2000s solidifying the tribal boundaries and structures created by colonialism and exacerbated under apartheid. Meanwhile, the highest court, the Constitutional Court, has developed extremely forward-minded jurisprudence on the true, flexible nature of culture and “living customary law,” and has sent at least one of these bills back for redrafting. The debate presents an ongoing challenge to human rights attorneys: within the muddle of legislation and court rulings, how can customary law be used to promote the rights and livelihoods of all South Africans, as mandated by the Constitution?

The complexity of the issue is manifested in a bill signed into law by President Zuma this past July 1, called the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act. The Act re-opens a process under which citizens may claim back land that was expropriated from them decades ago under racially discriminatory apartheid laws. In theory the law could offer great opportunity to citizens to reclaim land and rectify the disparities in land ownership that persist along racial lines. Yet in reality the law may just provide apartheid-created chiefs the ability to claim vast swaths of territory for their own use (or lease to foreign mining companies), ostensibly in the name of their tribe.

The legislature has spoken; it is now time for the lawyers and courts to help determine whose custom and whose law will be elevated to ensure truly equitably access to land for South African rural citizens.

Announcing the Release of LIDS Global Volume I!

LIDS is proud to announce the publication of Volume I of LIDS Global’s international research efforts for the 2013-2014 academic year. Check out the full text of this exciting, collaborative research project on the LIDS Global page and stay tuned for information about how to get involved in 2014-2015!

Last year, LIDS Global embarked on an ambitious, pilot initiative to facilitate collaborations with development-focused student groups outside of the United States. Groups from law schools in Singapore, Tanzania, India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka formed the inaugural LIDS Global research teams and Volume I presents a compilation of outstanding research from the first four schools. The upcoming publication of Sri Lanka’s innovative contribution will mark the beginning of work on Volume II.

The topic of Volume I, corruption, is a follow-up to a 2012-2013 LIDS white paper that was published in the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Magazine, “Access to Remedies for Transnational Public Bribery.” The white paper proposed that victims of corruption in developing countries should receive compensation for their injuries through the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the U.S. anti-corruption statute.

While the main argument of the paper explored the need for more robust transnational compensation, the paper left significant unanswered questions related to how compensation should be distributed. The differential impact of corruption in various countries and non-civil suit alternatives for combatting corruption also lay beyond the scope of the initial white paper.

As a result, LIDS global developed a research plan, inviting law students from partner schools to address at least one of the white paper’s gaps with respect to corruption in either their countries or geographic regions. Each contribution to Volume I is expansive and ambitious. Indeed, corruption is a multi-faceted challenge that can only be overcome by broad cooperation and free thought.

Accordingly, the LIDS Global product is greater than the sum of its parts. It adds substantially and uniquely to the discourse on transnational anti-corruption and we all look forward to continuing our efforts this year!

The following are brief descriptions of each paper:

National University of Singapore

Our partners at the National University of Singapore have provided an excellent in-depth look at the success of their country’s own anti-corruption laws and their potential for improving the development prospects of Singapore’s neighbors, and they conclude that Singapore’s robust anticorruption laws are guiding Southeast Asia to a cleaner future. The authors respond directly to the “Access to Remedies” LIDS white-paper, finding that compensation for victims is, at this time, unworkable and unnecessary in the Singaporean context. Indeed, the best way to facilitate relief to citizens of “demand-side” countries is to set a good example for their own governments.

University of the Philippines Student Organization for Law and International Development (U.P. SOLID

U.P. SOLID ambitiously proposes a private right of action (as opposed to a cause of action) for any citizen to sue corrupt actors on behalf of the government. This model is based on the “derivative lawsuit” model found in many corporate legal codes, but it specifically rejects providing compensation for “victims.” Instead, the disgorged funds would be returned to the government. This is a specific proposal to involve the public in the fight against corruption.

University of Dar es salaam, Tanzania

Our partners at UDSoL were in the unique and invaluable position of being able to directly evaluate the effectiveness of providing access to remedies for victims of corruption. In a widely publicized case, BAE was fined millions of pounds for bribery that corrupted Tanzanian government officials. The UK’s Serious Frauds Office decided, in 2012, to send nearly thirty million pounds of the disgorged funds to bolster the Tanzanian government’s education budget. The student researchers concluded that this was not an appropriate solution, and that future efforts to compensate victims of corruption should involve local civil society.

National Law School of India University, Bangalore

This team chose to tackle one of anti-corruption’s most complex problems—deciding where corruption stops and legitimate political activity begins. This age-old debate takes on special relevance in India’s contemporary political climate, but it is nonetheless highly instructive for citizens of any democracy. As activists around the world rally to the anti-corruption cause, identifying it as a main impediment to development, it is useful to remember that developed countries can also feature nepotism and political horse-trading—indeed, that is the unfortunately transcendent nature of corruption that the team from India delineates in their paper.

Applications Open: LIDS Fall 2014 Project Leaders

Apply now to lead / participate in LIDS-Orrick projects with partner organizations! The deadline for team leader applications is September 12.

The list of projects for Fall 2014 is:

The Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA), Examining and modifying regulatory frameworks to accommodate an expanding legal aid sector
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Developing analytical methods for negotiation research in humanitarian diplomacy
morethanshelters, implementing partner of UNHCR, Creating frameworks to facilitate cross-sector collaboration to develop Al Za’atari Camp (Jordan)
Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG), Examining state authority over education in post-conflict states
South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), Researching the issuance of financial instruments in Samoa and the US for a development corporation
Transparency International – Kenya, Mapping and analyzing global anti-corruption policies and enforcement in the humanitarian aid sector
World Resources Institute (WRI), Assessing the security of collective land rights for an online global mapping platform
LIDS Global White Paper, Exploring the development of a legal toolkit to reduce bribery in “demand-side” countries

To work with LIDS and our partners on these pressing development, post-conflict and humanitarian issues, please submit applications through these links: Apply to lead projects by September 12 2014 at 11:59PM and apply to work on projects by September 23 2014 at 11:59PM.

To learn more about the LIDS fall projects, read detailed descriptions here, or reach out to Carol ( and Sam (

Also, please join LIDS on Monday, Sept. 22 from 7-9pm in WC1010 to learn about ways that you can get involved in the organization during the school year. We will be highlighting our fall projects, which cover a range of topics, such as anti-corruption measures in humanitarian aid, humanitarian diplomacy research, microfinance, post-conflict education policy, security of collective land rights etc. Please note that this event is mandatory for people who want to participate in projects (if you have a conflicting class, please contact Carol and/or Sam to ensure you have the necessary information to apply). At the info session, we will also discuss how to get involved in LIDS committees if you would like to help with events, the symposium and/or communications.