Hammouri and five law professors from the University of Jordan participated in the 12-day study tour of the United States to learn about legal education, with an emphasis on interactive teaching methods and skill-building activities such as legal clinics and moot court. The ABA ROLI-organized trip took place in early November and 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.
When asked about his philosophy toward teaching law, Hammouri likened 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 explained. “It is not adequate to look at just one clue. You must [consider them all].”
Hammouri observed that understanding of the law has evolved to accommodate Jordan’s economic, political and social development. For example, he says 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 human rights, constitutional rights, criminal procedure and mechanisms of dissent.
The American approach to legal clinics was of particular interest to the Jordanian delegation. 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 these clinics, 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?” With time, the American clinics have overcome these and other challenges, and Hammouri plans to draw from those experiences to develop the Jordanian clinics in ways that avoid some pitfalls. This, he said, is a major benefit of intensive study tours that allow legal professionals to develop enduring and beneficial relationships with foreign counterparts.
Between the law professors’ adoption of interactive teaching methods and the school’s innovative extracurricular activities — which include innovative conference series, externships and moot court activities — the University of Jordan is among the leading universities carving a new path for legal education in the Middle East. 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.
ABA ROLI’s work in Jordan is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. To learn more about these efforts or our programs in more than 60 countries worldwide, visit www.abarol.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.