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September 11, 2013

Ask an Alum: Anthony H. Barash

January 2012

How did you get involved?

In 2002, as I was looking forward to my life post-retirement from my job as General Counsel of a large multi-national company, and several friends who had contacts with ABA CEELI (the predecessor of ABA ROLI) suggested that an assignment might be the right next step for me. After meeting with headquarters staff in Washington, I decided that volunteering offered a unique opportunity for me to combine my professional experience and contribute in some meaningful way to the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of human rights and the rule of law in the developing world. Fortunately, the staff agreed!

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

I was a Rule of Law Liaison in Uzbekistan, working on judicial reform, ethics and transparency initiatives both in Uzbekistan and throughout Central Asia. After my 15 months in Uzbekistan, I led a Judicial Reform Index project in Armenia.

What was your most memorable moment from that time?

During my work in Uzbekistan, I met and spoke to over 800 of the country’s950 judges. However, after almost 15 months of trying, I was unable to secure a meeting with the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court. With less than two weeks to go before I was scheduled to leave the country, I was invited to the Supreme Court to participate in inaugurating the Supreme Court Website, which we had helped to design and fund. Much to my surprise and delight, the Chief Judge joined us, thanked and complimented us on our service to the courts and to the country, and endorsed our many months of work with the judiciary.

What key lesson did you learn during this time period?

Take the time to really listen to your constituents and your colleagues before pronouncing judgment or offering advice.

How has your career trajectory changed?

Since “retirement” and my service overseas, I have been quite busy teaching at the college level, serving five years as Director of the ABA Center for Pro Bono, holding a fellowship at Harvard, helping to found an innovative literacy program in El Salvador and producing a children’s booking corporating lessons of legal literacy in generally accessible learning material as tools of self-empowerment. 

Are there ways in which your experiences benefit your current work?

I learned in many very personal, very immediate and very dramatic ways that Western culture a product of the Enlightenment is not the “onlyway” and that it may not necessarily be the best way in given circumstances. That insight informs my work in literacy and the empowerment of the poor.

Why do you think this type of work is important for improving the rule of law globally?

We live in an economically diverse global environment, but, at least in the US, we tend to be politically polarized and have isolationist components. In part, contemporary US isolationism is a product of fear that “other” beliefs and legal systems threaten our “way of life.” Promotion of global rule of law norms is a plausible way to mitigate that fear.

Where do you want to be in 10 years from now?

I hope to still be writing, speaking and promoting access to justice, economic and political equality and human rights and dignity.