August 1, 2013
New this year, the McGeorge Uganda Law and Development Practicum summer program gave law students a great chance to apply what they learned in the classroom.
Distinguished Professor Linda Carter conceived and directed the three-week program that combines an experiential component and a classroom component. In the experiential part, the students interned with judges in the High Court. The classroom portion was a seminar on local, national, and regional levels of the justice sector. McGeorge partnered with the International Law Institute-African Centre for Legal Excellence (ILI-ACLE), which is based in Kampala, where alumna Yen Phan, '12, currently works.
The journey to Kampala was made by 11 McGeorge students who had just finished their first or second years. In the seminar portion of the program, 12 Ugandan law students participated as well. The Ugandan students were either in the third or fourth year of university study or were graduates who were enrolled in the post-graduate Law Development Centre (LDC). In order to practice law in Uganda, one must have a law degree and also complete the highly competitive LDC program, which includes considerable practical training and a final exam that serves as the equivalent of a bar exam in the U.S.
"All students, American and Ugandan, were highly engaged in the discussions and also became good friends with each other," said Carter.
The experiential component of the program consisted of internships with judges of the Kampala High Court. The High Court is divided into many different divisions, and McGeorge students interned in the Land, Civil, Criminal, Anti-Corruption, and International Crimes Divisions. Students worked with a specific judge by researching issues in pending cases or in general on issues that often arise in the Court:
The second part of the program was a seminar that met for four hours each Friday. The theme was "Law and Development," and the focus was on the justice sector, with a consideration of developments on the local, national, and regional levels.
Participating students made two legal excursions as part of the program. The first was to the Parliament and the second excursion was to USAID where they learned about the SAFE Project, which is funding local justice efforts.
"The Uganda Practicum program was nothing short of outstanding," said Kristin Capritto. "Finding the right words to describe my experience there is not only difficult, but seemingly futile; there is simply no way to adequately convey how powerful and enriching our time there was. Not only was my legal education enhanced in such a way that I feel more prepared to enter the practice of law at a time when lawyers find themselves required to engage persons, laws, and governments on a global stage, but, more importantly, my heart and spirit have been, and will remain, changed forever."
Some of the students from the Practicum, including Kastle Lund, Bruce Pence, and Coleman Segal, stayed to participate in a seven-week Field Placement program in Kampala with internships at either the High Court or with an NGO.