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July 01, 2011

Study Tour Supports Legal Education and Legal Profession Reforms

July 2011 

Continuing its support of legal education and legal profession reforms in Mexico, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) brought a 24-member Mexican delegation on a June 27–July 1 study tour to observe the U.S. legal system.

Members of the delegation, which included senior-level law school and bar association representatives from 10 Mexican cities who also serve in an ABA ROLI-supported interdisciplinary working group for legal education and legal profession reform, met with their U.S. counterparts to gain a deeper understanding of the American legal education and legal profession systems.

Participants began the week by attending several presentations at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, where they learned about current practices in U.S. legal education, including law school curriculum development and clinical programs.  Additionally, participants observed a mock trial of a murder case by students in the school’s state-of-the-art mock courtroom, and served as jurors.

The following day, delegation members visited the Cook County (Illinois) Circuit Court, where they observed a civil proceeding, witnessing first-hand the adversarial system in action. Participants also met with a Spanish-speaking state judge. A working lunch was held at the Chicago Bar Association with visiting representatives from the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the National Hispanic Lawyers Association. Finally, the delegation met with the director of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission to discuss oversight of the legal profession.

The delegates then spent two days at the American Bar Association (ABA) headquarters to learn about the mission and daily operations of the association. Discussions covered such topics as the role of bar associations, the difference between national and state-level associations, continuing legal education, accreditation of law schools and admission standards for professional practice, and the ABA’s role in regulating the legal profession.

On the final day, the delegation toured the U.S. District Court in Chicago, meeting with its chief judge. Later, representatives from two prestigious law firms—Will, McDermott & Emery LLP and Winston & Strawn LLP—presented on professional ethics and the role of pro bono programs in private practice. Delegation members, who emphasized the need for mechanisms to better train and supervise Mexican lawyers and to exchange ideas with their American peers, said that the insights and comparative perspectives they gained during the tour will stimulate the critical reflection and dialogue needed to support the creation of a planned guide for legal education and legal profession reforms in Mexico.

The tour is part of a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded ABA ROLI program to support law schools, bar associations and judicial exchanges, increasing Mexican legal professionals’ ability to assist in the country’s transition to an accusatorial system. ABA ROLI is working with the delegates to compile a lessons learned document, which will be disseminated to Mexican stakeholders.

To learn more about our work in Mexico, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected]