Sixteen years ago I left my law practice to work for a non-profit arm of the American Bar Association on a project in Moldova, which until 1990 was a Soviet Socialist Republic. When the Berlin wall came down, the former Communist states had to make a transition from autocracy to democracy, one which involved enormous changes in politics, economics, and society. Among the necessary changes was an effort to make the judicial systems more transparent, more efficient, and more useful both to the people of the country and companies that wanted to do business there. I was in Moldova for a year as a volunteer, working with lawyers, judges, and legislators on improvements in the courts.
After that year, I spent the next four years as executive director of the CEELI Institute in Prague, working again with legal and human rights professionals from Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Since then I have participated in similar projects for several non-profit organizations, working in the same parts of the world and also in the Mideast and South Africa. For the last three years I have been going to Tunisia for a week each month, meeting with judges to work on court reform.
Not all of this work has been unpaid, although I probably could have made more money doing something else. Maybe it ought to be called semi-volunteer work. Whatever it is, I have been doing it since 2000 and expect to keep doing it in the future.