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Mexico Law Student Litigation and Mediation Initiative and New Advocates for Mexican Justice

Since 2013, ABA ROLI has supported Mexico’s transition from an inquisitorial, written-based system to an orality-based accusatorial system through our programs, New Advocates for Mexican Justice (2013-2022) and Mexico Law Student Litigation and Mediation Initiative (2023-present), both funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The New Advocates program started with the intention of supporting the New Criminal Justice System (NCJS), which was the result of a constitutional reform in Mexico that shifted from a written-based criminal justice system towards an orality-based accusatorial system. ABA ROLI continues to work with Mexican law schools to prepare the next generation of Mexican attorneys for practice in the accusatorial trial context through the Mexico Law Student Litigation and Mediation Initiative. To build the capacity of the students and faculty in Mexico’s law schools, ABA ROLI works with the institutions to develop the student’s litigation, mediation, and restorative justice skills, as well as tailor the instructors’ legal education teaching methods to mirror the accusatorial trial system. Since the New Advocates project’s inception, ABA ROLI has reached more than 6,000 law students representing all thirty-two Mexican states, 935 law school professors, and 237 law schools through technical skills training sessions and the administration of nationwide mock trial and mediation competitions.  

The new Mexican Law Student program also seeks to promote the employability of graduates to link them with agencies involved in the criminal justice sector as a strategy to strengthen the institutions in charge of the judicial resolutions, prosecute crimes, and criminal defense. 

Additionally, as a part of the Strengthening Legal Representation of Workers and Trade Unions in Mexico program, ABA ROLI supports Mexico’s labor justice system transition from the old Conciliation and Arbitration Boards (CABs) to the new labor courts which depend on the judicial branch. To enhance the protection of workers’ rights by labor justice institutions, ABA ROLI provides capacity-building assistance to improve legal advice and representation provided to workers. This program consists of workshops, lessons, lectures, and mock trial exercises to prepare labor prosecutors, federal prosecutors, union representatives, and lawyers for challenges and scenarios under the new labor law.

Mentoring National Mock Trial and Mediation and Restorative Justice Competitions

During the implementation of the New Advocates program, ABA ROLI Mexico hosted the largest annual National Mock Trial Competition and National Mediation and Restorative Justice Competition in Mexico. These competitions were among the most prestigious of their kind in the country, with approximately 47 law schools from 24 states participating in these competitions. In fact, many former competition participants have successfully secured work in state government agencies involved in the criminal justice system. In 2019, 926 law students and faculty participated in ABA ROLI’s national mock trial competition, and 750 law students and faculty participated in the national mediation competition. 

To build on the value that participation in ABA ROLI’s competitions added to law students’ career trajectories, participating students received fellowship and study tour opportunities to learn about the criminal justice system in the United States. For example, the winners of ABA ROLI’s competitions in 2019 traveled to San Diego, California and Washington, DC for a comparative and practical experience of the United States’ criminal justice system and the relevant institutions involved in criminal investigations and proceedings. 

ABA ROLI now focuses on providing mentorship to improve the capacity of law schools, civil society organizations, and institutions to conduct these competitions. The Mexico Law Student program provides the beneficiaries of this activity with ABA ROLI’s Manual on Best Practices in Teaching Oral Litigation, sample cases, and scoresheets for the organization of these competitions.

In 2020, ABA ROLI has engaged with law schools from 24 states (of 33) in Mexico (marked in red above).

In 2020, ABA ROLI has engaged with law schools from 24 states (of 33) in Mexico (marked in red above).

Bolstering Competencies for Legal Instructors’ and Professionals 

ABA ROLI holds training sessions and workshops on trial advocacy, mediation, and negotiation, as well as restorative justice for law students and professors in different geographic regions of Mexico. The training of trainers’ (ToT) workshops engage law professors and academic advisors on mock trial and mediation techniques and how to host competitions. The program utilizes a learning-by-doing teaching model to ensure that the future operators of the criminal justice system are equipped with the necessary practical skills required by the accusatorial system.

Enhancing Standards and Best Practices for Law School Competitions

To promote sustainability throughout the program, legal education institutions receive planning guidance as they develop local mock trial and mediation competitions. Through the National Alliance for Oral Litigation Competitions, we continue to work in improving standards and establishing best practices for law school competitions. Additionally, the program provides mentorship to teach law schools and CSOs how to host competitions independently. 

Strengthening the Justice Section Workforce

Through the New Advocates program, ABA ROLI hosted job fairs and fostered connections with prosecutors’ offices for law students who participate in our Mexico program. The job fairs paved a pathway for good practices, and the effectiveness of the New Criminal Justice System (NCJS). The NCJS was created under Mexico’s constitutional reform that shifted the criminal justice system from inquisitorial to accusatorial. Students’ experiences with ABA ROLI’s program ensures they are equipped with the appropriate skills to support the NCJS. During the National Competitions under the New Advocates program, the participants had the opportunity to be personally introduced to criminal justice sector entities, which helped them liaise with, learn from, and learn about practicing litigators and mediators. In 2019, ABA ROLI held five job fairs and meetings with prosecutors’ offices, where we connected eighty-seven students with employers representing prosecutors’ offices, the public defense service, the judiciary, government agencies, and private employers at the state and federal level.

Currently, ABA ROLI plays a role as an interlocutor between the graduates and the institutions of the justice sector for the holding of available job interviews. Students receive interview preparation and help with creating their CVs. Additionally, ABA ROLI maps critical sector jobs available to graduates of the program and creates job banks that are developed according to each job vacancy. 

Strengthening Trial Advocacy and Oral Litigation Skills

A decade ago, the labor law reform in Mexico transitioned from written to oral argumentation, thus, ABA ROLI works to train law students and professionals in oral litigation skills and expertise. Participants gain expertise in the technical use of legal argumentation, rebuttal, and litigation skills to confront the opposing party's legal strategy. The training incorporates skills required by the relevant knowledge standard by CONOCER, the Mexican Knowledge Certification Agency, so that officials can pass those exams and receive their skills certificates.