Throughout a packed 5 day workshop in May 2010, BABSEACLE and the Institute on Policy, Law and Development-Viet Nam (PLD-Viet Nam) jointly worked to train more than 35 law students, professors and lawyers in the “art” of client-centered lawyering skills for social vulnerable clients. The training aimed to strengthen the capacity of those working and volunteering in the newly established PLD Community Legal Consultation Center, located at the Trade Union University in Hanoi, Viet Nam. Fully understanding that in the current Viet Nam legal education system practical skills and knowledge are not a part of the curriculum, BABSEACLE and PLD-Viet Nam crafted a complete 5 day training module with which to assist in overcoming this shortfall in the legal studies system.
This workshop included a wide array of lawyering and social justice awareness topics. Such topics included the ‘nuts and bolts’ information about the establishment and managing of a student supported educational legal clinic to provide services to socially vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities. Topics ranged from client intake, interviewing and counseling to ethics and the law, including client confidentiality, conflict of interest situations and the concept of zealous representation. Other topics included case management, case file and case selection best practices as well as the educational reflective pedagogy required to ensure that the legal centers provided the proper pedagogy, supervision, support and tutelage to the students engaged in helping to run the center.
Broader legal aid and access to justice policy matters were also explored, with a clear message that it is a lawyer’s ethical obligation to provide legal aid services to those in need and without financial means.
Once again relying on cross-border exchanges and the theme of volunteerism, the BABSEACLE core training team was assisted by Professor Panarairat Srichaiyarat, the Director of the Chiang Mai University Legal Clinic and Mr. Harrison (Tim) Dickey, a seasoned lawyer of over 30 years, from the United States, both of whom graciously donated their in-kind legal training expertise.
Thinking broader than this single 5 day workshop, one of the core objectives of this event was to develop both training materials and a group of future national trainers who would be available to “pass on” their gained experiences to other legal clinics throughout Viet Nam. All this will be done utilizing the interactive, participatory teaching methods both BABSEACLE and PLD-Viet Nam have become known for.
In addition to the pro-bono assistance of Professor Srichaiyarat and Mr. Harrison, this workshop was made possible due to the financial support of the Asia Foundation, which is working with PLD-Viet Nam to help to provide legal services to migrant workers in Viet Nam, and BABSEACLE, as well as donated technical support from BABSEACLE and the PLD-CLE (clinical legal education) team.
Moving forward from this workshop the materials used during the workshop including the lesson plans for each session are being translated in Vietnamese for the PLD-CLE team to continue further trainings to the newer members working in the In-house clinic. Additionally, BABSEACLE looks forward to continuing to provide further capacity building for those working in an In-House clinic, including client case management and administration procedures.