October 14, 2015

Pilot Mentorship Program Takes Minnesota Lawyers to Kosovo

From July 13–17, representatives of the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) visited Kosovo through a pilot mentorship program that will provide technical support to the Kosovo Bar Association (KBA).

Arranged with support from the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the Balkans Regional Rule of Law Network, the exchange program builds on a long-standing ABA ROLI-KBA relationship, which dates back to 1999. ABA ROLI has since helped the KBA increase its capacity to serve its members and address legal issues.

During the MSBA delegation’s trip to Kosovo, the KBA organized various meetings with chairs of regional bar chambers, heads of KBA committees, civil society organizations, KBA members and young lawyers. Discussions addressed several issues, including lobbying on key issues, the advantages of having lawyers specialize in distinct areas of law, women’s participation in the legal profession, the special court on war crimes and the role of young lawyers. KBA leaders said that, recognizing the positive impact specialization can have on the quality of legal service, their association has introduced a formal regulation process that allows lawyer certification in certain areas of law.

The visiting lawyers also shared the MSBA’s experience with specialization and suggested a less formal, demand-driven approach to specialization. Over the coming months, the MSBA will support the KBA in the creation of sections that enable lawyers with similar interests to network.

Discussions on the participation of women in legal profession revealed that an overwhelmingly majority of Kosovo’s lawyers are men; women, for instance, make up only 12 percent of KBA membership. The KBA has set up a committee to devise ways to include more women in the profession. The committee’s chairwoman met with MSBA representatives and discussed a mentorship program for female law students, which may also involve American attorneys.

As Kosovo considers the establishment of a special court to investigate alleged war crimes committed during the 1998–99 war, the KBA is working to develop trainings and a resource center for defense advocates. KBA and MSBA representatives agreed to collaborate in providing trainings in legal advocacy skills, such as cross-examination techniques. The visiting lawyers also offered to support the KBA in reaching out to young lawyers.

To get a better understanding of Kosovo’s legal system, the Minnesota lawyers observed court proceedings in Gjilan and North Mitrovica. On the MSBA delegation’s final evening in Kosovo, the KBA hosted a dinner reception for the visiting lawyers.

To learn more about our work in Kosovo, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.