Angela Liu, a Chicago-based lawyer at Dechert, is one of the many inspiring volunteers that make the work of The Advocates for Human Rights possible. While Liu is a partner in Dechert’s Trial, Investigations and Securities team, she also has an impressive pro bono practice, devoting hundreds of hours a year to helping those in need. I had the opportunity to speak with Liu earlier this month about her work as a volunteer with The Advocates, which has not only had a tremendous impact on the lives of others but also significantly impacted her own life as well.
She shared that when volunteering for The Advocates, you might go into a project wanting to help other people, which you do, but you leave the project personally gaining much more than expected. For the past several years, Liu has participated in a number of projects for The Advocates, including a 2015 domestic violence monitoring mission to Montenegro and a 2017 United Nations Study-Advocacy Tour to Geneva.
Liu participated in The Advocates 2015 domestic violence mission to Montenegro, where she was a part of a team that carried out fact-finding to monitor and document the Montenegrin government’s implementation of domestic violence legislation. While in Montenegro, Liu spent a week interviewing judges, doctors, mediators, police officers, and victims to better understand the current condition of domestic violence in Montenegro, all of which were used to serve as a basis for final report published in 2017. As Liu noted, The Advocates generated a “very detailed report in terms of how many people lacked the education about what domestic violence was.” She then added, “we wanted there to be more training on domestic violence with different NGOs and we wanted amendments to the criminal laws to make sure that the victims were actually protected.” One of Liu’s most memorable moments of the trip was an interview she conducted with a mediator:
“We were just asking about the mediation process and they told us that ‘domestic violence is a style of communication between the parties and that the victim is choosing to be communicated in that way – through violence.’ And that really just struck me so horribly because he was just explaining it in the most normal way.”
During her travels to Geneva for The Advocates’ United Nations Study-Advocacy Tour, Liu lobbied members of the Human Rights Council regarding the death penalty, domestic violence, religious freedom, and discrimination issues. She also made an oral statement to the Human Rights Council regarding conditions in Eritrea. Reflecting on her time at the United Nations, Liu told me she got “a sense for how fragile things are,” particularly when considering how the system must work to protect the many around the world whose civil and human rights are constantly under threat.
When I asked Liu what she liked about volunteering with The Advocates, she had endless praise for their work:
“First, I love the people and I love how knowledgeable the attorneys are there. I cannot even imagine the breadth of what they do. I think, for me, I had done a lot of volunteer work prior to law school but I had never had the exposure on the international scale, but … seeing on an international scale how you could effect change was incredible … It is really empowering to do, what I consider to be pretty small things, like an interview, but then see that it can affect change on such a large scale … I don’t know of any other organization where you can really do that.”
She then told me that she feels that she has grown so much as a person through the volunteer work that she has done with The Advocates. She left me with this final thought:
“Just because you are a big law lawyer doesn’t mean that you can’t do this kind of work. We have the responsibility to do this type of work. Particularly for myself as an Asian American female at a large law firm, I feel a responsibility to help people through the judicial system, and to break different barriers for so many different generations.”
Thank you, Angela, for all of the work that you do with The Advocates. Your enthusiasm is infectious. You might feel that you have benefitted from being a part of this community, but this community has definitely benefited from you being a part of it.
By Jenna Schulman, University of Pennsylvania sophomore and active volunteer for The Advocates For Human Rights.
The Advocates for Human Rights is a nonprofit organization dedicated to implementing international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. The Advocates represents more than 1000 asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, and immigrants in detention through a network of hundreds of pro bono legal professionals.