A Life-Changing Experience in Zambia

When I first heard that I had been selected to be part of the group that would be teaching drafting skills to law graduates in Zambia, I was excited. Really excited. But not even my highest expectations could prepare me to the actual experience of being in Lusaka for the week-long training course organized by New Perimeter in association with the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE). 

It was January 2019. The team was gathered at the hotel lobby for the first time and, although it was easy to spot the diversity of accents and backgrounds, I dare say we all had one thing in common: the desire to contribute to others, with a pinch of anxiety for not knowing exactly what to expect of the next few days – truth is, most of us were out of our comfort zone. 

Fortunately, the amazing group formed by representatives of Brazil, United States, Canada, UK, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Tanzania and Australia, among DLA Piper and General Electric (GE) lawyers, made sure to quickly break the ice and turn that week into something memorable. 

During the opening ceremony, the program was introduced to over 300 students, who would be taught subjects such as Dispute Resolution Clauses, Sale and Purchase Agreement, Effective Writing and Negotiations throughout the week. The willingness to learn and warming attitude of all students gave us a great boost of confidence and the first day of class ran as smoothly as we had wished – we were all excited to hear each other’s stories as we headed back to the hotel for well-deserved drinks. 

As the week progressed and the students got used to our interactive style of teaching, the exercises and debates grew in quality and intensity. It was surprising to see that many of our Dispute Resolution students continued to negotiate better conditions for their hypothetical clients even after the exercise was finished! The great energy and teamwork turned the classroom into our new comfort zone. 

Discovering the city in between classes was an opportunity none of us missed. From sightseeing to visiting local markets and restaurants, often in the company of our colleagues from DLA’s partner firm Chibesakunda & Co., we all enjoyed experiencing a little bit of the Zambian daily atmosphere. 

At the end of the week, it was beautiful to see confident smiles on everyone’s faces, including trainers and students, as we all benefited from the cultural exchange and intense learning over the program. Countless selfies, handshakes and even some tears marked our farewell from ZIALE and the end of our teaching journey. 

Simon Boon, one of the trainers and organizers of the program, said on the closing ceremony that we can all make a difference to people’s lives. I couldn’t agree more. The students at ZIALE certainly made a difference to my life, as they turned that week into one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my career. I will always remember that January 2019 with great enthusiasm.