March 01, 2014

ABA ROLI Launches a Program to Support Legal Education in Mexico

March 2014

In September 2013, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) launched a program to bolster Mexican law schools’ adaptation of their courses and methodologies to the country’s nascent accusatorial criminal justice system. The program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, builds upon previous ABA ROLI research on legal education. The 2011 Legal Education Reform Index report for Mexico found significant weaknesses in the teaching methods of the country’s law schools, including a lack of hands-on practical activities and an emphasis on lectures and textbooks.

ABA ROLI’s program will design, promote and conduct a national mock trial competition that will allow Mexican law students to develop those advocacy skills needed in an orality-based accusatorial criminal justice system. Schools from all 31 Mexican states and the Federal District will participate in the competition. Juan Manuel Olvera, deputy director of the program, said that the competition will help raise the level of professional training Mexican law students receive. “Performing these skills demands a high level of competitiveness on the part of participating students and their academic advisors as they require a thorough and comprehensive preparation to move forward in the competition,” he added.

ABA ROLI will coordinate with the National Institute of Criminal Sciences (Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Penales) in planning and implementing the program. As part of the preparations for the competition, ABA ROLI will develop and provide trainings for law school teams. Participating students and the professors who will coach them will be trained in courtroom and trial-advocacy best practices under Mexico’s new criminal procedure code. Additionally, professors will be trained in teaching methods, and coaching and mentoring techniques. ABA ROLI will also train the competition support teams consisting of the scorers, judges and witnesses. “Most of these trainings will be provided [in] the states that are starting [to implement] the accusatorial system,” said David Fernández Mena, the program’s director. “Our aim is to train approximately 500 participants.” Leading up to—and to raise public interest in—the national competition, two high-profile law schools will take part in a demonstration mock trial, which will be webcast live nationwide.

Preliminary regional competitions will be held across the country, including in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Mexico City and Villahermosa, over the coming months. Members of the national champion team will win a four-day study tour to Washington, D.C., visit the U.S. Supreme Court and meet with local judges, attorneys, law students and American Bar Association representatives. In addition, the coaches and students from the winner and runner-up teams will receive fellowships that will enable them to teach oral trial skills to other Mexican law students.

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