By Pavina Thepithuck
On the 18th of January 2014, the Faculty of Law and Political Science, Clinical Legal Education (FLP CLE) of the National University of Laos officially opened the doors of its In-House Consultation Clinic. The Opening Ceremony was held at the Donnokhoum Campus where the In-House Consultation Clinic and Clinical Legal Education office is located. The In-House Clinic was built in 2012 with the support of Herbert Smith Freehills. The In–House Consultation Clinic’s aims are to help disadvantaged people, assist the law and encourage law students to pursue pro-bono work and strengthen their legal skills. This In-House Clinic is the first In-House Clinic in Laos to be run entirely by law students under the supervision of their law lecturers and volunteer lawyers.
Those present at the opening ceremony included members of the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the National University of Laos, as well as outside partners such as Lux-Development, GIZ, Asia Foundation and JVC. Prominent individuals at the ceremony were the Dean Associate Professor VIengvilay Thiengchanxay, Head of FLP CLE Ajaan Bounleuth Xaphakdy, Bruce A Lasky (Co-founder and Co-Director of BABSEACLE Initiative), Dr. Panarairat Srchaiyarat (Vice Dean of the Faculty of Law at Khon Kaen University, Thailand), Annette Bain (Head of Pro Bono and Community at international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills), and Professor Donald C. Peters (Emeritus Professor of Law, Trustee Research Fellow, and Director of the Institute for Dispute Resolution at the University of Florida, USA.) Law lecturers, law students and general members of the National University Of Laos were also present.
At the Opening Ceremony, Dean Associate Professor Viengvilay Thiengchanxay, said, ‘The opening was a good milestone for the Faculty in developing legal education to a new standard and allowing students to develop their knowledge and skills in practicing law, while opening a new channel for disadvantaged people to access to justice.’
Annette Bain, said, ‘What really stood out for me at the opening ceremony was the joyfulness of the occasion – everyone was smiling! There was lots to smile about: the opening ceremony was a celebration of the deep commitment of faculty staff and students to establish this clinic. It also celebrated the success of collaborative action, the support and guidance provided by a number of organisations which although quite different from one another, share a common vision to increase access to justice and improve legal education: Lao Bar Association, BABSEACLE, LuxDev, the Open Society Foundations and Herbert Smith Freehills. This clinic is destined to make a big difference to the people it will assist, and to everyone who supports it. Congratulations on your achievement.’
Professor Donald C. Peters, who has been doing CLE work for more than forty years, said, “I was inspired by the opening ceremony for the FLP In-House Consultation Clinic. Seeing the culmination of so much effective and diligent work by so many at FLP, BABSEACLE, Lux-Dev, and other supporting firms and organizations was a magnificent experience. Contemplating the potential this initiative has to influence the development of clinical legal education in Laos and the region and the skills and values of new lawyers and government officials in Laos was awesome. Congratulations to everyone involved.”
Dr. Panarairat Srchaiyarat, Vice Dean Faculty of Law, Khon Kaen University, Thailand added, “I am glad to see how much clinical legal education has been developed at the FLP. This means the students will get a better legal education and the public will get better legal services. They are in the right trend of modern legal education.”
The In-House Consultation Clinic will now be open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. The clinic is currently open for walk in consultations only but will shortly be opening their telephone lines as well.