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March 01, 2008

Cambodia’s First Law Student Client Counseling Competition

March 2008

On February 28–29, 2008, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) held the first Client Counseling Competition (CCC) in Cambodia’s history.Teams from five Cambodian law schools (Royal University of Law and Economics, Cambodian Mekong University, Pannasastra University, Build Bright University and University of Cambodia) competed for the honors of national champion.The national champion was the team from the Royal University of Law and Economics. That team won a trip to India to represent Cambodia in the International Client Counseling Competition, which will take place in Bangalore, India from April 2–6, 2008.

The competition places teams of law students in a simulated law office environment where they are challenged to conduct a counseling session with a“client” that is played by an actor. Their performances were scored by local and international judges (mostly lawyers in Phnom Penh). The students learned to employ important practical legal skills such as active listening, interrogation, empathy, issue spotting, legal analysis, problemsolving and teamwork. The students worked with local lawyers to preparefor the competition.

The CCCC is part of ABA ROLI’s Legal Education Program in Cambodia.The program focuses partly on assistance to law schools. The CCCC is an example of the creative and exciting new methods used to teach law students important practical skills that are not being effectively taught in Cambodian law schools. These skills will make for more effective advocates in the Cambodian justice system.

The competition was held at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh. East West Management Institute (EWMI) and ABA ROLI were the implementing partners whilethe Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia was the local partner.Over 100 law students, professors and members of the legal community attended the competition. ABA ROLI Legal Education Advisor Steven Austermiller wasresponsible for developing and organizing the competition.

ABA ROLI also helped prepare the students by conducting a client counseling workshop earlier in February. That workshop was attended by about 50 students and law professors. Austermiller presented the workshop modules.In the morning, the modules were presented using PowerPoint slides. The modules also included brainstorming and Q&A sessions. In the afternoon, Austermiller and EWMI Advisor Rajan Shaw presented a live demonstration of a counseling session. After that, students watched a DVD presentationon two large screens that showed the actual 2006 U.S. finalist competition. Teams of Cambodian law students then performed practice counseling sessions with actors and cases provided by the organizers.

Over twenty countries are expected to compete in the international competition in April, including the United States, England, Australia, India,Malaysia, Hong Kong and others.

ABA ROLI works in Cambodia as a subgrantee to the East-West Management Institute, under the USAID-funded Program on Rights and Justice.