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The ABA Afghan Legal Professionals Scholarship & Mentoring Pilot Program (Pilot Program) seeks to help rekindle the legal careers of Afghan judges, lawyers, and prosecutors who have resettled in the United States during or after August 2021. The Pilot Program has two top priorities, to provide:

  1. Preparatory Assistance Mentoring (PAM) services (without financial assistance) to those preparing to pursue an LLM degree or other law-related course of study and/or finding employment in the U.S. legal system in non-lawyer capacities; and
  2. Scholarship and Mentoring (SAM) services (with financial assistance in appropriate cases) to those who have obtained a full tuition scholarship and seek assistance with their LLM studies and bar exam preparation. The Pilot Program has secured and will continue to seek commitments of full tuition scholarships from ABA-accredited law schools throughout the U.S. To date, 20 law schools have agreed to provide full tuition scholarships to deserving candidates. These scholarships waive the cost of tuition and fees to attend LLM programs for foreign lawyers. SAM also seeks to provide stipends to help cover housing and living expenses for scholarship recipients who meet the program criteria.  Charitable support from donors like you – individuals, law firms, corporations, and other organizations – makes these stipends possible.

Brief Background

Prior to the U.S. leaving Afghanistan in August 2021, judges, lawyers, and prosecutors received legal education and valuable work experience under the US-enabled legal system. Many developed expertise in their areas of practice and had distinguished careers. Those who were forced to flee the country left behind their careers and a great deal more. In recognition of the courage, sacrifices, and contributions of Afghan judges, lawyers, and prosecutors to civil society and the advancement of the rule of law, the Pilot Program seeks to mentor and provide resettled Afghan legal professionals—especially women—access to legal education, accreditation, and training that will allow them to pursue law career opportunities in the US.

Pilot Program Strategy

The Pilot Program draws on the ABA community of lawyers to serve as volunteer mentors to Afghan legal professionals. Mentors and mentees are matched through the Pilot Program to guide Afghan legal professionals who are pursuing law-related education, certification, and employment opportunities in the US.

The Pilot Program was designed to  support those participants who wish to become qualified as lawyers in the United States. In many cases, obtaining a one-year LLM degree for foreign lawyers will allow Afghan legal professionals to take a US bar exam and become licensed to practice in several states and DC. The Pilot Program seeks to aid LLM candidates with obtaining full tuition scholarships from US law schools. In appropriate cases, scholarship recipients may apply for stipend awards to help cover housing and living expenses. These stipends are made possible through charitable investments from individuals, law firms, and donor advised funds. The Pilot Program also seeks support from foundations and other organizations.

The Pilot Program is intended as a one-year program to provide proof of concept for a broader potential scholarship and mentoring program that, in subsequent years, could potentially serve larger numbers of legal professionals from Afghanistan and serve as a template for similar programs for legal professionals from other countries.

You can help the Pilot Program by making a charitable investment, volunteering to become a mentor, or joining the all-volunteer ABA International Law Section’s Afghan Legal Professionals Resettlement Task Force, which administers the Pilot Program.

Make A Charitable Investment

Charitable dollars help fund the stipends that assist with housing and living expenses, along with other necessary expenses (e.g., books) during the academic year while the student is studying for an LLM degree and, in some cases, during the time it takes to prepare for the bar exam.  

The various levels of contributions and the ABA recognition associated with each level can be found here: 

Donations of any size are crucial to continuing the Pilot Program. Please consider urging your law firm’s or company’s generosity and donate your own gift of personal significance at ambar.org/donateITL.  If you or your law firm, corporation, or other organization would like more information about contributing, please contact [email protected] with the subject line, “Request to Information about Giving” and a Task Force member will be in touch to discuss.

The Task Force is deeply grateful for the individuals and law firms that have already helped launch this life-changing Pilot Program. 

Newsletters

Law School Partners

The Pilot Program proudly partners with ABA accredited law schools to provide full tuition scholarships to qualifying Afghan legal professionals.

Volunteer Service Providers

The Pilot Program is grateful to the following organizations for generously providing expertise and services on an ongoing basis to Mentee Fellows in the Pilot Program:

  • LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation: Providing online legal research training for Mentee Fellows enrolled in law school programs.
  • Themis Bar Review: Providing extended bar review courses for two Mentee Fellows who have graduated law school.
  • USLawEssentials: Providing legal English language assessments and online legal English courses for all Mentee Fellows who are pursuing LLM degrees in the United States.

More About Mentoring

The Pilot Program includes a substantive mentoring program. Mentors provide support services to Mentee Fellows—those individuals enrolled in the Preparatory Assistance Mentoring (PAM) or the Scholarship and Mentoring (SAM) tiers of the Pilot Program. Volunteer ABA members utilize their experience and knowledge as past or current legal professionals to serve as Mentors to the Mentee Fellows. For example, U.S. judges, lawyers, prosecutors, academic professors, legal scholars, and law students will provide guidance and support to Mentee Fellows on a variety of topics that include assessing career goals and readiness, engaging in preparatory programs of study, successfully completing LLM studies, passing a U.S. bar exam, exploring professional opportunities, and adjusting to life in the United States. 

Mentors work as a team to engage in peer-to-peer discussions with Mentee Fellows and share their knowledge of the American legal profession to aid Mentee Fellows in reaching their goals.  Mentors meet for at least one hour, twice a month (in person or virtually) for 12 months with their assigned Mentee Fellows.  This requirement is flexible, as Mentors and Mentee Fellows are encouraged to add meetings to this base goal through additional one-on-one meetings outside of the group atmosphere.

The program currently seeks Mentors in all U.S. states and jurisdictions.

If you are interested in becoming a Mentor or enrolling as a Mentee Fellow, please contact [email protected] with the subject line, “Request for Mentoring Information” and we will be happy to discuss the Mentoring Program with you. Please check back regularly for updates as this section will include application materials for Mentors and Mentee Fellows.

Join the ABA ILS Afghan Legal Professionals Resettlement Task Force

Members of the Task Force facilitate the Pilot Program in various ways, depending on a member’s interests and expertise.

The Task Force meets once every other week and Task Force members are expected to attend. Task Force members assist in a variety of subject matters including, but not limited to, contacting law schools to seek scholarships and placements for candidates, developing relationships with potential donors, developing policies and procedures for the Task Force and Mentoring program, creating content to assist Mentee Fellows, connecting with potential scholarship candidates, and identifying and exploring other resources to aid in the growth of the candidates as future lawyers in the United States. Volunteer positions in the Task Force change and expand as the needs of the program develop, providing volunteers with a chance to aid in a variety of areas. 

If you are interested in joining the Task Force, please contact [email protected]  with the subject line, “Request to Volunteer for Task Force” and we will be happy to discuss opportunities to join the Task Force with you.

For Scholarship and Stipend Candidates

The Pilot Program is in a testing phase, and it is not presently accepting candidate applications in the normal course.  Please check back regularly for updates as this section will include application materials when the Pilot Program has achieved the necessary funding and has finalized its candidacy process.

Events

Explore virtual programming sponsored by the Pilot Program:

When Judges, Prosecutors, and Lawyers Are Refugees, What Then? The ABA Program Empowering Afghan Legal Professionals to Qualify as Lawyers in the US - A Tribute to the Memory of Arthur Helton

Arthur Helton was an internationally respected human rights advocate, attorney, professor, author, and distinguished ABA volunteer who dedicated his professional life to championing the rights of refugees. Arthur shaped countless policy initiatives, and he boldly created an all-volunteer corps of immigration lawyers that represented thousands of refugees over the years. The program he created continues to be replicated throughout the world.

Twenty years ago, on August 19, 2003, Arthur tragically died in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, along with 22 others. He was on a humanitarian mission in Iraq. At the time of the blast, he was meeting with the top UN official in Baghdad, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was also killed.

August 2023 marks two years since the US-supported, 20-year democracy in Afghanistan collapsed. Afghan judges, prosecutors, and lawyers—especially women—were forced to evacuate, leaving behind homes, extended families, life savings, and careers. In a world where those who uphold the rule of law are refugees themselves, what then? Who will help them reclaim their professional lives and rebuild their legal careers?