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Christina Storm `74

 

Christina StormChristina Storm, Class of 1974

Lawyer and Founder, Lawyers Without Borders

Christina was recently named one of the top 500 Leading Lawyers in America. Click here to view the list!

What being an alumna means to me…

Oddly enough it was the college application process and a question posed by an admission officer of another women’s college seeking to explore my exposure to international travel that prompted my grandmother to ensure that my answer to that question would never again be: “Well, if by abroad you mean have I traveled outside America, the answer is, No.” Two months before entering Manhattanville, my spitfire of a grandmother took me on a trip to Europe’s three capitals, London, Paris and Rome, one week each—a most intense and satisfying journey, straight out of an elegant late Victorian novel.

Storm UN

The next thirty years would be punctuated by law school, marriage, children, a career as a trial lawyer and yes, plenty of international travel. Keeping with the tradition my grandmother started, travels with my children started as soon as they could read the history of the sites we visited with them, from the Middle East to Europe and Africa. On the eve of my 50th birthday, I became preoccupied with more than a little worry that, while I had taught our children the value of a seriously committed work ethic, focus on philanthropy, volunteering and giving back might be lacking.

My husband and I were both lawyers and we decided that the “family” would commit to pro bono work by one of us electing to work on a volunteer basis full time. I had volunteered. It seemed I might be able to marry my passion for all things global with my experience as a trial lawyer and mediator—thinking that at least the latter of those skills could seamlessly cross borders. The problem with the plan was that the search for a full time international pro bono opportunity proved considerably more difficult than I had ever imagined. To make a long story short, when it was clear that there was no portal or clearinghouse for lawyers from all disciplines to “give back” either at home, or in the words of the admission’s officer “abroad”—I decided to be the person to make that happen. Although it meant, in a way I could have never anticipated, that I would spend considerable amounts of time at the computer or behind a desk and precious little time traveling in the early years, the potential to exponentially increase my philanthropic impact was obvious. Correction. It was obvious to me. In the early days there were plenty of naysayers who had much to say about the prospects of an organization entirely dependent upon the generosity of lawyers giving back.

at UN_2012That was fifteen years ago. This year we mark and celebrate reaching the 15th year of Lawyers Without Borders. LWOB programming has engaged hundreds of lawyers from around the world in pro bono research and work and has dispatched hundreds more to places around the world where pro bono legal support meets identified and dire needs. This seems to be our “lucky” year with personal recognitions of LWOB and my role there as one of the 500 leading lawyers in America. And travel, yes I sometimes now rue the day when I thought I wanted to travel more.

At Manhattanville I was a philosophy major and attended the college at a time when students were allowed to focus pretty intently on their subject of choice. I was in a hurry to get on with life, and though I entered with the class of ’74, I graduated with the class of ’73. With professors such as Ray Langley, Beth Singer and Sister Mary T. Clark, I considered myself fortunate to have been taught by the best. In my old age, I’ve taken to writing a blog “Through the Rear View Window.” What I find has served me best in life is the depth and range of my readings and studies in philosophy. At Manhattanville I learned to think and write, to question, challenge and problem solve in a thoughtful logical way. Those who know me well say that is the strength I bring to my work at LWOB, where daily we tackle daunting obstacles to implementing rule of law, gender equity and support for those most underserved in our world. My M’ville philosophy studies remain a dear friend and the single most valuable resource that remains steadfastly at my side as I confront so many of life’s challenges, both personally and in my work in the developing world.