Dr. Hammouri likens legal practice to deciphering a puzzle, where there is a formula based on legislation, implementation, precedent and practice, with a dose of common sense. To encourage his students to think of the law in this way, he makes it a policy to provide these foundations, but to let students arrive at their own conclusions through interactive teaching techniques and guided classroom discussions. “You have this clue here and this clue here, and [another] here,” he explains. “It is not adequate to look at just one clue, you must [consider them all].”
He says it is especially rewarding to introduce students to topics they have not encountered, such as cases involving corporate shares, options or other complex business transactions. About halfway through the course, Dr. Hammouri says, they begin to engage in discussions that illustrate their grasp of the legal pillars and of the new field, which makes him very proud. “The law requires continual dialog and adaptation, but there is a philosophy of logic that underpins its operation,” he says, adding that this characteristic makes the law interesting, both as a student and a teacher.
As part of his quest to meet the evolving needs of his students, Dr. Hammouri and five law professors from the University of Jordan took part in a 12-day study tour to the United States. The purpose of the tour, which was conducted by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, was to learn about legal education, with an emphasis on interactive teaching methods and skills-building activities such as legal clinics and moot court. The trip included visits to the law schools at Cardozo University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Harvard University and Yale University, as well as to ABA ROLI headquarters, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal Judicial Center.
While the Jordanian delegation and the U.S. law professors and legal experts discussed many substantive and practical matters, the American approach to legal clinics was of particular interest. Four years ago, the University of Jordan Law School and ABA ROLI collaborated to establish a legal clinic, the country’s first. In contrast, many of the institutions the delegation visited have operated legal clinics for five or six decades. In learning about the trajectory of these clinics, Dr. Hammouri and his colleagues were reassured that many of the same initial questions were presented to those operating American clinics, such as ‘Will the students actually learn useful skills?’ and ‘Will the beneficiaries receive appropriate legal services?’ Across the intervening years, the American clinics have overcome these and other challenges, and Dr. Hammouri plans to draw from those experiences to develop the Jordanian clinics in ways that avoid some pitfalls. This, he says, is a major benefit of intensive study tours that allow legal professionals to develop enduring and beneficial relationships with foreign counterparts.
Along with legal clinics, the law school offers extracurricular activities that Dr. Hammouri could not have imagined as a student. These include a debate club, for which students identify discussion topics and engage in self-directed research to refine their arguments. Students can participate in Arabic- and English-language moot court competitions, both supported by ABA ROLI, the latter of which provides opportunities to take part in international competitions. The school’s externship program allows participants to observe the path of law—from legislation to application—by providing a sequence of externships in the judiciary, in civil service and in the Ministry of Industry and Trade. A series of conferences, some hosted in collaboration with ABA ROLI, feature legal experts, both from Jordan and from throughout the Middle East, that hold opposing positions on emerging political, constitutional and legal topics. This, Dr. Hammouri says, can help students develop an appreciation for the peaceable discussion of differing viewpoints, which is critical in preparing students for their futures as practicing attorneys.
Over the years, Dr. Hammouri has observed how public understanding of the law has evolved to accommodate Jordan’s economic, political and social development. One example he provides is how the Arab Spring has stoked the interest of young people in civic matters. To capitalize on this awareness and to encourage an engaged and civic-minded youth population, University of Jordan law students are developing a public legal education program for rural students nearing the end of their secondary school education. The curriculum utilizes simplified yet interactive approaches to teach students about their rights under Jordanian law, including as they relate to human rights, constitutional rights, criminal procedure and mechanisms of dissent.
Between the law professors’ adoption of interactive teaching methods and the school’s innovative extracurricular activities, the University of Jordan is among the leading universities carving a new path for legal education in the Middle East. Dr. Hammouri believes that, taken together, this will not only serve to make the students better lawyers, but also will benefit Jordanian society and the law itself.
To learn more about our work in Jordan, you can contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at email@example.com.