Kent Alexander describes his job as general counsel of CARE as "legal pinball. Every day, every minute is different. Different issues, different countries, different red tape. It's a constant learning opportunity. There's lots of adventure, and everything we do is aimed at helping people."
Scott Lenhart, an attorney who works with Alexander, says, "Given what CARE does, the legal issues are broad, complex and frightening. We're constantly having to familiarize ourselves with social, economic and political issues in areas where there may not be any electricity, much less any rules."
The challenges have not eased for CARE Inc., founded in 1945 to aid the survivors of World War II. Today, the organization is still aiding the victims of war and natural disasters. It also fights poverty by working to prevent the spread of disease, increasing access to clean water and sanitation, and expanding economic opportunity.
Adding to Alexander's legal-pinball issues is that oftentimes CARE deals with groups or governments that have been linked to terrorists. "Attorneys try to do their best for their clients under the letter of the law. With many of our situations, there aren't really any recognized or effective governments and very little law," he says. "As an NGO [nongovernmental organization] we have to find ways to do our work. It's challenging but extremely exciting."
At any given time the four-attorney department of the international relief organization may deal with licensing issues, anti-terrorism acts, regulatory compliance issues, international law, nonprofit legal battles, real estate, human resources and tax problems. Or a CARE lawyer may be talking on the phone to an employee who is on the roof of a building in his war-torn country trying to get Internet access while bombs explode in the background.
"I can certainly shower them with praise," says William M. McGlone, a partner with Latham & Watkins in Washington who works with CARE on regulatory issues. "They are doing intensive legal and compliance work and are very dedicated."
Benjamin T. White, a partner with Alston & Bird, says he is glad to pitch in and help with tax issues. "I hear from Kent from time to time, and he's terrific. He's efficient and effective. His department does amazing legal work without cutting corners. He knows what to ask [for in pro bono help] and what not to ask. Plus, he's a legendary figure. It's hard to match his bio."
Alexander joined CARE in April 2011 after serving as the general counsel of Emory University. His résumé also includes stints as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia and as a partner at King & Spalding. He cut his civic teeth by co-founding Hands On Atlanta, which coordinates the community work of more than 50,000 volunteers.
At CARE, Alexander says the organization's corporate culture is central to its success. "The camaraderie and teamwork of the staff is extraordinary. There are no egos. If something needs to be done, anyone is willing to do it, day or night, regardless of whose responsibility the job falls under."
Alexander also points out that CARE is fortunate to have top-notch legal help either on a pro bono or reduced-fee basis. Among these firms are Alston & Bird, Hogan Lovells, King & Spalding, Holland & Knight, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Latham & Watkins and Seyfarth Shaw.