W&L partners with Carter Center to expand Liberia Justice Project

The Transnational Law Institute at Washington and Lee University School of Law has announced a new partnership with the Carter Center that places current or recently graduated U.S. law students with a variety of institutions in Liberia working pro-bono on access to justice issues.

The Carter Center, founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, works in over 70 countries and has operated The Access to Justice Project in Liberia since 2006. For the 2009-10 academic year, 12 law fellows are slated to join Liberian institutions, such as the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Labor, the Supreme Court, the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute, as well as the Carter Center's offices in Monrovia, the Liberian capital.

“These fellowships offer students a unique opportunity to engage in legal reform and legal development at a critical time in Liberian history, as well as a challenging and interesting personal experience,” said W&L law professor Speedy Rice, who directs the School's activities in Liberia.

Established in 1822 as a home for freed American slaves, Liberia retained many American traditions, including a legal system based on Anglo-American common law. But a fourteen-year civil war between 1989 and 2003 saw the destruction of the West African nation's economy, infrastructure and legal system.

W&L's own efforts in Liberia began in 2008 with the Transnational Law Institute's Liberia Access to Justice Practicum, a joint program including Washington and Lee, the Louis A. Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The practicum's principle goal is to educate and train every academic semester a selected number of W&L and Louis A. Grimes' law students on the human rights of detainees and the role of paralegals working with lawyers to ensure those rights are respected. They also conduct prison visits and work with the Ministry of Justice to promote access to legal services. Students working in the practicum travel to Liberia each semester.

The International Law Practicum, which also operates programs in Cambodia, Iraq, The Hague, and elsewhere, forms a key element of the Transnational Law Institute's array of international and comparative law programs. Established in 2006 to globalize the study of law at W&L, the Institute supports and coordinates teaching innovations, global externships, a speaker series, and visiting faculty to help prepare students for the increasing globalization of legal practice.