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December 31, 2013

Ask an Alum: Frederick Yeager

How did you get involved with ABA ROLI (formerly ABA CEELI)?

The bank that I worked for was acquired and I was looking to make a career change.

In what country/countries did you serve, and what was the focus of your work there?

I was a volunteer with ABA CEELI for five years. I worked on rule of law issues in Croatia for three years and in Armenia for two years. I then moved into consulting and have since worked on USAID rule-of-law projects in Croatia, Nepal and Albania, and am currently the chief of party on a USAID rule-of-law program in Moldova.

What was your most memorable moment while at ABA ROLI/ABA CEELI?

It is probably not a memorable moment but more the memory of working with those judges, lawyers and other judicial professionals who were committed and really interested in implementing the rule of law in their country. Of course not all judges, lawyers and professionals were committed but many were, especially the younger ones. Also, getting to know the local citizens, many of whom have remained friends and with whom I am in contact, was a very positive result of my time with ABA CEELI.

What did your career look like before you volunteered? Did your career change as a result of your service?

Before joining ABA CEELI, I had practiced law in Sioux City, Iowa, and then moved to Chicago, where I was the international tax counsel in a large international bank. My career did change. After leaving ABA CEELI, I started doing international consulting on rule of law projects and was the chief of party on USAID-funded rule-of-law projects in Croatia, Nepal, Albania and now Moldova.

What is the best thing you have learned from your ABA ROLI/ABA CEELI time?

I think that during my five years with ABA CEELI, I learned how to live and work in cultures different from that of the United States. Although many aspects of life in a foreign country are similar, there are many ways in which it is vastly different. But in all countries people want fair and impartial justice and courts that are efficient in meeting their demands.

Tell us about your career today. What do you find most challenging about your work?

I have been doing international consulting on rule-of-law projects since finishing as a volunteer with ABA CEELI. It is a challenge working with courts and judges on judicial independence and improving the quality and efficiency of courts and judges because you are working at the heart of government. That means working in a very political environment and developing the government’s political will to implement the reforms necessary to institutionalize judicial independence and improve the quality and efficiency of courts. Working with governments to insure fair and impartial justice for citizens is often difficult, frustrating and requires patience. But it is encouraging to see judges struggling to maintain their independence and court staff learning new skills that will make their courts more efficient.

Are there ways in which your ABA ROLI/ABA CEELI experiences benefit your current position?

Working with ABA CEELI was my first opportunity to work with the civil law system rather than the Anglo-Saxon model that we follow in the U.S., and that has been extremely helpful on the other rule-of-law projects that I have worked on. I also witnessed many of the issues and problems that I would encounter in the other projects that I worked on.

Among ABA ROLI’s current work, is there a particular program or initiative that you think is particularly important?

There is probably not any one program or initiative that I think more important than the other. Each has a role to play and a part to contribute.

Share why you think this type of work is critical for improving the rule of law globally.

Obviously anything that improves the rule of law globally is important. It is important not only for improving citizens’ access to justice, but by developing rule of law, we improve the conditions for investment and development of the global economy so that all people have a better standard of living.

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

I am not sure where I want to be but am open to all possibilities and opportunities that may arise.