A Rare Opportunity - Training Students at the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education

Photo above: Kaptuiya Tembo (Leeds) instructs post-graduate law students on effective legal writing skills.

Every now and again an email is sent round the office asking for volunteers to take part in one form of pro bono project or another. Whilst I had taken part on many projects within Leeds, where I am based, I had yet to travel further afield. When an email came around asking for volunteers for a project in Zambia, it grabbed my attention. DLA Piper teams with a client, General Electric (GE), to deliver training to post-graduate law students at the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education ("ZIALE"). My husband is originally from Zambia, so I felt an instant connection with the place in addition to my own connection with Africa, having been born and raised in Kenya.

I filled out the requisite application form and I cannot express my delight at being one of the 20 lawyers chosen to take part in the project. This has to be by far one of my greatest achievements in my career as a lawyer, if not in my life generally.

I landed in Lusaka around the same time as a few colleagues who were also taking part in the project. We travelled together to the hotel, and it was good to meet part of the team just as soon as I had landed.  Working in a large international firm, one does not get many opportunities to meet colleagues from various countries in person, let alone several offices within the same country.  This project provided a good opportunity to get to know 17 new people, gain an insight into the type of work they do, and also an understanding of some of the differences between jurisdictions.  Aside from teaching together as a team, we spent every evening together sharing our evening meals, a few drinks and plenty of laughter. I can honestly say I made some friends for life.

In respect of the teaching, the students were divided into groups of around 40 with the teachers paired in twos to teach a different class each day. I was charged with the topic of effective legal writing. It was interesting to see the diversity of the students in each class. They ranged from students aged in their early twenties to some who were in their fifties. The students also came from different backgrounds. Some had undertaken their undergraduate LLB degree in the UK. We also had some mature students, some of whom had taken up education later in life having first focused on raising a family. Others were pursuing a career in law as a second career, with a previous career in other fields such as banking and accounting. This provided a good platform for exciting discussions during the teaching sessions, as the students drew from their different backgrounds. The students were very receptive and the majority of them were very engaging and extremely enthusiastic.  There were also those who displayed natural talent and great leadership skills. At the end of each day, and indeed the end of the week, a number of the students thanked us profusely for the training which they found very helpful as they prepared for their exams. The course at ZIALE as a whole is very intense, with the students required to undertake and pass 10 exams at the end of the one-year programme. We were also able to team up with Chibesakunda & Co from DLA Piper Africa, with a few of the associates coming to speak to the students at ZIALE and giving them insight in their journey to qualification, including some tips on how to approach and pass their forthcoming exams.

I remain forever grateful for the opportunity to have taken part in this project. I dare say that I found my calling in the classroom and now have a clear plan for my second career when I approach retirement.