HONOREE ROBERT KAPP
Lifetime Achievement Award
Bob Kapp has demonstrated his strong personal and professional commitment to pro bono throughout his long career. Co-founding ISLP to encourage a more robust attitude toward international pro bono was the logical culmination of efforts that began early in Bob’s legal career.
Today, a pro bono department headed by a partner is standard practice for American and most international law firms; firms are rating by their commitment to pro bono and pro bono is a factor as new law firm hires consider their options. Bob helped set the model.
Following the 1968 Washington, DC riots, and influenced by his own experience with Martin Luther King Jr.’s August 28, 1963 March on Washington, Bob urged Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) to make pro bono a top priority. In his vision, pro bono should be given the same status as any highly valued legal practice. The firm hired its first dedicated pro bono partner in 1970. The quality of those early choices to lead Hogan’s pro bono department is demonstrated by their subsequent career trajectories, including John Ferren (now Senior Judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals) and David Tatel (now Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit). And the decision that Bob urged on Hogan has been replicated across America.
Bob also worked directly to apply his tax law skills for social change. He represented the plaintiffs in Allen v. Wright in 1984, challenging the tax exempt status of the segregated academies that were set up to evade Brown v. Board of Education. Although he lost on standing grounds before the Burger Court, he persuaded the Internal Revenue Service to change its rule.
Bob went on to lead a number of legal non-profit organizations committed to carrying forward his deep commitment to civil rights and civil liberties, domestically and globally: the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, Global Rights, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. As part of his engagement with the Lawyers’ Committee, Bob went as an observer to, and was deeply affected by, the 1994 vote in South Africa that peacefully brought Nelson Mandela into power after years of discord.
Bob and Tony’s decision to capture the talents of seasoned lawyers as volunteers in global pro bono activities has expanded the very definition of pro bono. As co-president of ISLP since its 2000 founding, Bob set in motion a process that has helped to improve the lives of countless ordinary people in unlikely places on all the continents of this globe. Providing sophisticated legal skills–for example, negotiating concession agreements on behalf of poor countries–has demonstrated new roles for pro bono assistance not previously imagined. And in providing this opportunity, he has enriched the lives of developed world lawyers who have had the chance to apply their skills and see how those applications have made a substantial difference in the lives of often marginalized peoples. Both lawyers and clients have found these experiences deeply satisfying. ISLP is today a pioneer in the globalization of pro bono, as well as in the use of law to promote equitable economic development in poor nations.