Since February 2021, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has been implementing the Supporting Criminal Justice Reform and Strengthening Anticorruption Efforts in Moldova program. This program supports the continued development of Moldova's criminal justice system and its actors and strengthens targeted anticorruption efforts.
Through this program, ABA ROLI has been supporting Moldovan legal clinics to build and strengthen their institutional capacity and become sustainable legal aid providers. As part of these efforts, ABA ROLI organized a one-week study tour to Washington D.C. for 10 representatives from Moldova's five legal clinics – Moldova State University, Academy for Economic Studies of Moldova, Cahul State University, Balti and Comrat legal clinics, as well as the Executive Director of Moldova's National Legal Aid Council (NLAC).
During the study tour visit, the delegation met with several U.S. counterparts and experts in the fields of legal aid and clinical legal education, including learning from the leaders at Georgetown, George Washington Law School and American University Washington College of Law, and George Mason University. The delegation also met with the ABA’s Director of the Division for Legal Services, and the Chief Counsel of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense, as well as the DC Bar Pro Bono Center and Rising for Justice.
Through these meetings, the delegation gained insight into the U.S. legal aid system and the operational activities of university clinics and legal aid providers in D.C. The discussions focused on legal clinical programs, their integration into the academic curriculum, the relationship between clinics and universities, law students' participation in legal assistance and representation, and the sustainability of legal clinics. The delegation also learned about legal aid funding and how they can leverage community partnerships to help increase participation from students and tutors. This knowledge will help legal clinic representatives start a dialogue between local legal clinics and other legal aid actors and create sustained partnerships. The legal aid representatives also recognized the value of further integrating the legal clinics in the universities and their curriculum and creating externships with local legal aid NGOs and other legal assistance providers.
While the context of legal aid and clinics differs in the U.S. from that of Moldova, the legal clinic representatives and the executive director of the NLAC acquired innovative strategies and best practices to be adapted to and implemented in the national framework. The knowledge the delegation gained will help them provide legal assistance to the underprivileged communities they serve and train future legal professionals in Moldova.