This professional life is one that he dreamed of as a law student. Abdallat credits the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) with kicking off his legal career. Like many students, Abdallat had worried about his job prospects. Although a good student, he did not have the highest grades or the right personal connections to secure a legal position. As graduation loomed, Abdallat was resigned to accepting a non-legal position at a bank. Then he saw a flyer that advertised an ABA ROLI externship program that offered a two-week-long law firm position. He knew that, if accepted, he would better understand the practice of law and possibly be connected with potential employers. He applied immediately.
Like many countries in the region, Jordan has a high unemployment rate for university graduates. While national unemployment is 16%, many officials say that the rate is double that for recent graduates. Each year, Jordan’s 15 law faculties graduate roughly 2,000 students, and only about 700 register with the bar for their mandatory training—the remaining law school graduates are either unemployed or accept jobs unrelated to their degree. This is not surprising as many Jordanian lawyers are cautious about taking on trainees, and most law faculties do not offer job placement assistance.
While lawyer Ala Abbassi was a supporter of ABA ROLI’s work, he admits initial skepticism about taking on a trainee. In Jordan, law programs are undergraduate level, and graduates are often in their early 20s, a fact that led Abbassi to be concerned about professional maturity. As he worked with ABA ROLI, serving as a moot court judge and a speaker, his interactions with students increased, and he was impressed with their grasp of the law. Soon, he was excited by the idea of hosting a student in his firm. Shortly thereafter, Abdallat started his two-week externship at Abbassi’s law office. During a routine call about Abdallat’s progress, Abbassi told ABA ROLI that he was awed with his performance.
“When I agreed to assist a law student,” Abbassi explains, “I thought it was a good thing to do, but I didn’t expect that my firm would benefit so much.” Participating lawyers praise the program for allowing them to recruit trainees and staff based on actual performance as opposed to by grade point average and interviews alone. Eventually, Abbassi offered Abdallat an official trainee position—a career-changing offer.
When asked about his experience, Abdallat is effusive. He shares that many of his fellow students have had difficulties finding a practicing lawyer willing to train them, adding that some of those who do find an internship quickly find that their environments provide limited opportunities to build legal skills. Abdallat says, “I was very fortunate and hope that in the future I can participate in a similar program to assist a law student.”