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September 28, 2007

ABA ROLI Launches Cambodia’s First Legal Ethics Class

September 28, 2007

Steven Austermiller, ABA ROLI’s Legal Education Advisor in Cambodia, recently completed implementation of the first ethics class ever taught at a Cambodian law school.  With the assistance of Cambodian law professor Youk Bunna, ABA ROLI sponsored the pilot Ethics Class at the Royal University of the Law and Economics (RULE) in Phnom Penh.
The curriculum for the class included a philosophical grounding for ethics; confidentiality; conflicts of interest; competence; control of misconduct; judicial and prosecutorial ethics—all conducted in Khmer.

The class consisted of highly interactive material that required students to participate throughout the class. Interactive teaching methods include the Socratic method, role-playing, moot court and mock trial activities, which, along with clinics, helped the students appreciate the importance of advocating vigorously on behalf of individual clients’ fundamental rights, such as the right to a fair trial. Increasing the use of interactive methods has been a success not just in Asia but throughout the five regions in which ABA ROLI operates.

Over 70 RULE students applied and interviewed for the 16 class slots. These students were selected based on their academic performance, their stated interest on the written application, and an interview.  During the interview, Austermiller’s team asked applicants why they were interested and what they wanted to get out of the class.  “This was important since we wanted both highly-qualified and highly-motivated students who were interested in ethics,” Austermiller clarified. He estimates that of the 5,000 students at RULE, approximately 25 to 35 percent are women, while nearly 50 percent of students admitted to the ethics class are female.

The ethics class was run from May through July.  In September 2007, the students attended a certificate ceremony where Austermiller and the RULE Rector presented speeches and handed out certificates. ABA ROLI plans to expand the class in the upcoming academic year, and hopes to gain official accreditation—which would mean mostly permanent funding for the class—in the next two years.

This class is a continuation of the Initiative’s assistance in the area of ethics. Through the Legal Education Reform programs, the organization recognizes that changing the mindset of future members of the legal profession is one of the surest ways to usher in lasting legal reforms.  Previously, ABA ROLI assisted in the development of Cambodia’s first Code of Ethics for the judiciary by providing expert international analysis on the draft code and sponsoring an international conference to present the results.  Some of the suggestions were incorporated into Code, which was adopted in February 2007. 

For more information, please contact Steven Austermiller, <[email protected]> Cambodia Legal Education Advisor.