Many Am Law 200 firms do asylum work. But asylum can only be sought by those who have already made it to Western shores. That does nothing to help the 62 million people languishing overseas in camps for refugees or the internally displaced. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights resettles less than 1 percent of refugees. “Saving 1 percent is not acceptable,” says Reed Smith pro bono counsel Jayne Fleming. “We have to come up with alternatives.”
Reed Smith’s solution is to fly a pro bono team led by Fleming to the refugee camps. In effect, Fleming does Lady Liberty one better. She doesn’t lift her lamp beside the golden door. She brings it to the refugee’s tent flap.
Fleming’s early life resembles the plot of a Young Adult novel more than it does the overprivileged story of your typical American lawyer. She lost her father at age 11 in a naval transport air crash that left her mother alone to raise five children. Young Jayne found solace in musical theater, and naively left home at 17 to break into Broadway. She found lodging at the Martha Washington Hotel for Women, alongside psychiatric patients from Bellevue Hospital, when she had rent money. She supported herself by making lunch platters for fancy law firms.
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