Friday, January 25, 2013

Discussing Clinical Legal Education in Pakistan

Chad Carr [center]

When I asked about the justice system in Pakistan, the reply of locals was the same: the court system is broken. Courts, I was told, are overloaded with cases and the legal system is plagued by corruption. There was little sense of hope for the average, unconnected citizen. As one Punjabi saying goes, “May God save even my worst enemy from disease and a court case.”

Nevertheless, reform efforts are underway. One of the recent internal projects has been to reform the education of law students who will inherit the legal system. Syed Imad-ud-Din Asad, Director of the Center for Law and Policy, explained to me that legal education historically has received little government attention in Pakistan. In addition, teaching law is not prestigious and pays little, so there is difficulty attracting high quality professors. In an effort to learn from outside models of law teaching, the Center for Law and Policy launched a conference series in Lahore titled “Global Trends in Legal Education.” In August, I traveled to Lahore to speak at the first conference focused on clinical and experiential learning.

Currently, Pakistan has no equivalent to clinical education that allows students to get practical experience with the law. One of the goals of the conference was to start a dialogue in Pakistan about how they might develop an experiential component to their legal education. I was joined on the panel in person by a clinical professor from Boston University and by educators from Northeastern University and Jindal Global Law School who participated via video an. A panel of Pakistani former judges and legal educators wrapped up the conference with their responses to the presentations and insights about how experiential learning could be incorporated into their system of legal education. Their comments, which mirrored those I heard in discussion with Pakistani lawyers at the conference, indicated a real enthusiasm for experiential learning to improve legal education. Despite current obstacles—such as the lack of supervised practice rules for law students—they were genuinely interested in taking steps toward giving students more realistic practice experience.

I also spoke specifically about HNMCP and the types of projects that we do with clients around the world. While there was a general sense of enthusiasm and interest in the ways we think about approaching disputes, I was surprised by the overall resistance from Pakistani lawyers to the idea of settling disputes outside of formal litigation procedures. Despite my incantation to re-imagine the role of lawyers, they perceived ADR as a threat to their livelihoods.

Pakistan actually has a long history of traditional methods of dispute resolution, which we would categorize today under the umbrella of ADR, in its tribal regions. For example, many villages have an assembly of elders that convenes members of the community to discuss important issues and to resolve local conflicts. The elders use long-evolved processes for issue analysis, deliberation, decision-making, and implementation. However, these traditional forms of Pakistani dispute resolution are entirely divorced from the colonial legal system that was imposed during British rule. One of the challenges with the Pakistani legal system has been that it was imported wholesale from western culture, and not crafted according to the specific needs of the Pakistani people. In a country where 90% of the citizens speak Punjabi, Sindhi, or other regional languages, Pakistani law requires that all laws are written in English and all legal proceedings are conducted in English.

Nevertheless, the theory and practice of ADR is slowly trickling into Pakistan. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has been actively developing commercial mediation centers. The attorneys I spoke with in Lahore were concerned about the threat ADR posed to their livelihoods, but were interested in learning more about how mediation could ease the burden on the courts and improve outcomes for their clients. Given the interest our discussions sparked, the Center for Law and Policy has scheduled another conference in Lahore in August 2013 that will focus specifically on ADR.

I was told that the people of Pakistan pride themselves on their hospitality, and my experience confirmed this.  I was welcomed warmly. During our visit, we met with the Governor of the Punjab, had dinner with local politicians and a member of parliament at the Lahore Provincial Assembly, and were invited to Islamabad to speak with the Minister of Education. Many Pakistanis expressed their appreciation that we traveled across the world to visit Pakistan during a time of visible conflict, when outsiders were largely avoiding the country. For me, the sense of being a lone tourist in a city of seven million people was a powerful immersion experience. In one week, I just scratched the surface of Pakistan’s complex history—cultural, political, and legal. I hope to return to continue my learning, and to continue the dialogues we began.

Chad Carr ‘06 is a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and Clinical Instructor with the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program. In the summer of 2012, Carr presented at the Global Trends in Legal Education Conference sponsored by the Center for Law and Policy in Lahore, Pakistan.