Using legal skills to make a difference
New York insurance associate Ben Lee talks about his recent efforts to help a translator and his family flee Afghanistan.
I joined the Army in 2008 after graduating from college and spent a year deployed in Kandahar in 2010 as a Civil Affairs officer, dedicated to building schools and roads and to helping develop trust in the local government. My work relied heavily on Afghan translators, who accompanied me on every combat patrol as I interacted with the local population. After my deployment, I attended law school at Georgetown University and I am now the associate chair for CliffVets, Clifford Chance's affinity group for veterans and affiliates in the US.
When Kabul fell to the Taliban, I checked in with my chief translator, who had rushed to Turkey from Virginia at the time. Though the man had become a US citizen in 2014, his family was mired in the visa bureaucracy and stuck in Kabul. This effort to help the translator led me to join a group of veterans and other individuals coordinating evacuations from Afghanistan. I was able to put my skills as a corporate attorney to use, organising documents and writing supporting memoranda to help move people through the chaotic and constantly evolving process of getting through the airport gates.
Rapidly and effectively organising information is an essential skill in M&A and corporate work. I'm very fortunate to have learned from the best, and I was able to put those skills to use to help others.
I'm proud to say that my group ultimately helped 68 people leave Afghanistan, including the translator's family. A man walked next to me in a dangerous place, and so I promised him that if he was ever in danger, I'd walk next to him. I am very glad to have kept my promise.
I have always felt strongly about the importance of volunteering and serving the community. My firm belief is that everyone should strive to use their talents for the public good, which led me to run for the Stamford Board of Representatives in 2017.
Not many law firms would have allowed me the time to engage in public service while also working as a corporate attorney. I am very grateful to Clifford Chance for giving me the flexibility to do so.
Drafting local laws as a city council representative and co-ordinating paperwork on behalf of individuals fleeing Afghanistan has reinforced my dedication to the community and reminded me just how much these things matter.
Everyone has a skillset they can use to help others in some way. The firm gave me a skillset, and I'm glad that I can use it to make a difference.
Read more about Ben's work in the Stamford Advocate.