In February, I joined a team of instructors presenting an intense, week-long series of practical skills lessons to the next generation of attorneys in Zambia. The course is the focal point of New Perimeter’s pro bono project at the Zambian Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE), in Lusaka. Comprised of DLA attorneys and in-house counsel from General Electric (GE), our 15-attorney team was a truly global one, with team members spanning from Western Canada to Singapore; Chicago to Paris; Germany to Angola; and Moscow to Nairobi.
Over five full days, our team presented lectures and real-world exercises to some 350 students studying for the bar exam at ZIALE. Divided into groups of 30-75, the student body rotated through a sophisticated curriculum of classes, including: Principles of Effective Writing and Drafting; Negotiating and Drafting Dispute Resolution Clauses; Negotiations; Drafting Sale and Purchase Agreements; and Drafting Joint Venture Agreements.
ZIALE is the only school of its kind in Zambia and successful completion of its program is an integral step to being admitted to the bar. As such, it draws students representing regions, tribes, and cultures from all across Zambia – a country roughly the size of Texas. That diversity of backgrounds was evident on our first day of teaching, and further emphasized both the reach and potential impact of our project.
As the week progressed, we learned an increasing amount about the students. Each of them had to balance work at demanding internships, study for a notoriously rigorous bar exam, and their own personal commitments at home. Despite those pressures, student interest in our program was remarkable – especially considering the fact that our classes are directed to practical legal skills, as opposed to topics specifically being tested on the bar exam. In the classrooms and the hallways, we found ourselves fielding a steady stream of questions about our work experience from eager students.
For the team, validation of our efforts and involvement seem to arrive daily. Students regularly approached us after class, often just to let us know how thankful they were to have us there and for them to be part of our program. Others shared with us that navigating our program’s exercises gave them renewed confidence in their ability to negotiate contract terms or argue a position for their clients, when their own practices begin. Feedback like that is tremendously gratifying.
Equally gratifying for me was the genuine pleasure of working with such a talented team. Despite our own varied backgrounds – cultural, professional, and otherwise – our international team blended together seamlessly, equally energized by the experience and eager to not only share our knowledge with the students, but to learn more about Zambia in the process. The character, comradery, personality, and energyof my teammates made my experience in Zambia just that much better.
Working for an international law firm with such a significant global pro bono initiative like New Perimeter is genuinely a privilege and a special opportunity. I look forward to joining the next New Perimeter project I can.