In 2013, Suzanna—then a fourth-year student at the European Regional Academy’s Lori Branch—learned about HCAV through an announcement at her school. She says that the opportunity to put what she was learning at school into practice was tempting. She decided to join the legal clinic, embarking on an association that has continued after her law school graduation. Now also a graduate of the European Regional Academy, Suzanna says that her legal clinic classes educated her about those issues on which she provides consultations, including the right to life and legal protections against torture, and improved her consultation and legal arguments skills. Having real clients was also a great motivator to study issues in depth, she adds.
Since 2005, ABA ROLI has supported four regional law clinics, including the HCAV, in Armenia. With an eye toward alleviating the particularly limited access to justice outside the capital city and allowing law students to give back to their communities, these legal clinics have since trained 240 law students. While legal jobs are not easy to come by in Armenia’s remote regions—forcing most law graduates to move to Yerevan with hopes of landing a job—ABA ROLI’s evaluations of two of the four legal clinics show that 45% of their alumni practice in their communities. “One of our goals is to build the students’ practical skills and to encourage them to stay in their regions to improve access to justice,” says Hasmik Hakobyan, ABA ROLI’s deputy country director in Armenia. Fourteen percent of them work for human rights organizations, 35 percent work in the courts and as prosecutors, while another 37 percent assume municipal roles.
Suzanna says that her experience as a student attorney was fulfilling as well. She says that she advises her law-student friends to take legal-clinic classes to test their knowledge in a “way that can be useful to other people.” She thinks this is the key to young lawyers’ success as they start their legal careers. Suzanna, who was hired as a student attorney at HCAV during her second semester of legal clinic, says that the theoretical and practical knowledge she gained from clinical education helped her to understand the importance and implications of the law in people’s lives.
ABA ROLI’s work to support criminal law reform in Armenia is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
To learn more about our work in Armenia, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected]