The autumn has finally arrived in Hanoi. Sunlight becomes less intense and cool wind begins to blow in. Hien, Ivy, Phuong and I are chilling in a cafe after 2 long days running the workshop at the National Economics University (NEU) on 29-30 Nov, 2016. They all participated as trainer and interpreter volunteers for the workshop.
For BABSEACLE, Hien, Ivy, and Phuong all hold countless titles. They all used to be law students who participated in the CLE programme at their schools. Later on, they worked as full time team members who managed various projects for the organization. They are now our alumni since they all took on different jobs and drove their career to distinctive directions.
I joined BABSEACLE when they had already left. But it seems like there is absolutely no distance between us. I see them and work with them often, either in person or virtually. To us, they are more than just alumni. Even the title “volunteer” does not fit their current role with us perfectly. They are team members who may not be with us full-time but would whole heartedly extend their hands whenever we need.
I am taking this note, not as an official interview but more of a note from our friendly conversations over our cup of coffee.
Q: Good morning Hien, Phuong and Ivy. It is just so great for me finally seeing you all at the same time in Hanoi. I have not had much time to work with you all in BABSEACLE team, so I want to take this opportunity to talk with you more about BABSEACLE, about your future plan and so on. So first of all, what does BABSEACLE mean to you and why did you decide to work with them?
Hien: “More than a former work place” is what I would describe it. With BABSEACLE, I feel as though my responsibility does not end with the end of my labour contract. My role here transformed from one capacity to another but it never seems to vanish. There is no need to explain and titles are the last thing that matters because whatever works: a volunteer, a consultant, a manager, a coordinator or simply an alumnus. After all, the organization to me is a team where I am a part of, where I could always reach for and would immediately find people who share the same passion as mine.
Phuong: Apart from many aspects that a work place often offers, BABSEACLE is special to me in terms of the devotion of the whole team towards social justice and access to justice issues and the solutions, strategies are well thought – out and executed effectively and efficiently towards solving these existing problems.
Ivy: Same with Hien and Phuong, BABSEACLE always means a great deal to me, where I started to learn and figure out what I can do for myself and for others. Even when I am not currently a full time employee, I still feel like I am a part of the team to do many meaningful things to support the Access to Justice movement in Southeast Asia. If I could have a chance to change my past, BABSEACLE would be the part that remained the same, no matter what happened.
BABSEACLE just organized a workshop in NEU about Legal Ethics and Pro Bono, and you were back to support this event as a team member. Can you share with me which sessions/activities of the training workshop that are most memorable to you and why?
Hien: The session I enjoyed the most is the one on due diligence, loyalty and best interest. I like this session simply because it was helpful and informative, yet fun. It was a chance for me to test and challenge my own knowledge on the subject. Through case scenarios provided, it was interesting to be able to compare how lawyers in different countries would apply the code of conducts differently and whether or not the code of conducts is ultimate. This session was also where I could see how all the extrinsic and intrinsic values play a part in how each person behaved in each situation.
Ivy: It is a difficult question for me, I think as I enjoyed most of activities during the workshop at NEU. If I have to pick the most favorite one, I think I will choose the activities “Which client you would act for”. Through that activity, I can hear the opinion of the students when they choose to act for their clients, no matter who that client is. Many of them are aware of their social responsibilities of a lawyer which is so important as they might be lawyers in the future, and their awareness about legal ethics, Pro Bono will positively affect to their career path and to other disadvantaged people.
It seems like you all had so many beautiful memories with BABSEACLE. Although you are not currently fulltime employees anymore, can you share with me how getting involved with BABSEACLE and law schools helps your current profession?
Hien: I found volunteering for BABSEACLE is rewarding in many ways, both personally and professionally. It is an opportunity for me to keep in touch with old colleagues and partners and to network with new people. It is an opportunity for me to learn new information and new set of skills. It is also a place where I can be around people whom I do not feel the need to explain or present myself too much. All members here accept the way I am and support what I do. Most importantly, this is a place where I can fulfill my pro bono responsibility as a lawyer, which I do not get to do often in my previous and current job.
Phuong: Through working with BABSEACLE and other partners, I am connected to a network of lawyers, professors and legal experts worldwide. Such connections are valuable because I can reach out to my colleagues to discuss substantive contents, exchange views. Also, people in the network are like “soul-mates” in terms of doing Pro Bono and contributing to the community.
Ivy: All the skills and confidence which I got during my time with BABSEACLE have changed myself from a girl to a mature lady who can adapt to any working environment and know how to overcome the difficulties I may face and especially, support other people. All people I have met through BABSEACLE network help me to believe and keep my faith to the path I chose, to be a lawyer doing Pro Bono.
You all just mentioned about Pro Bono, so I guess that is one of the reasons why you participated in the recent workshop about “Pro bono and legal ethics” at NEU. You might meet many interesting people there, so who inspired you the most during the workshop?
Hien: It must have to be Dr. Thuy Nguyen – the former Dean of the Law Faculty, National University of Economics. It has been almost ten years since the first time I met her through law clinics programmes in 2007 when I was a law student. For the past many years until now, she never stops showing me how dedicate and committed she is to her students and to better educational system for Vietnam.
When we talk about inspirational individuals to be the key element for success of clinical legal education, Dr. Thuy and law educators like her are exactly what we need to keep the programme growing.
Phuong: Yes, I agree with Hien. Dr. Thuy is a great example for us to learn from. I admire her efforts towards her commitments to students and legal education in Vietnam. No matter how hard it is, she will manage to get things done.
Ivy: I have to say that all the people I met in the workshop inspired me a lot. I can see the enthusiasm in the students’ eyes in each activity, I can see the motivation in the stories of the lecturers, I can see the inspiration from our young guest speakers from Singapore when they share their experiences about Pro Bono and also their personal stories as lawyers in their country. It will be a mistake if I don’t mention Bruce, Wendy and other members from BABSEACLE team. It has been such long time since the last time we worked together in an event, still feel like yesterday, I can feel the passion and connection from each of them.
Even myself I feel so inspired with what you all just shared. So what is the reason for you keep doing volunteer for BABSEACLE?
Hien: Lawyers can’t possibly find a better way to contribute to society better than volunteering for this organization, really. At least this is true for Vietnam. The work here is well coordinated. Members here are helpful and flexible. And there is a real need from students and communities for your time and contribution.
To me in particularly, it makes sense in many ways. I have known and work with this organization for many years. I respect the work they do. I don’t have to learn from the scratch how things work. Most importantly, I trust my contribution makes positive impact to the organization as well as the beneficiaries.
Phuong: I know that my time and efforts are always put for good causes. I am delighted to participate in BABSEACLE’s programs because I trust the people and their philosophy as well as the outcomes that their programs produce.
Ivy: As I mentioned above, the values which I have got from BABSEACLE stay still until now so I want to part of the team to keep spreading the inspiration to other young people and hope my experience so far with BABSEACLE can contribute to the meaningful activities which BABSEACLE is running, especially in Vietnam. In addition, each day working with BABSEACLE, I can learn new things and have a chance to meet new people. Last but not least, to me, coming back to BABSEACLE always brings me warm feelings of seeing true friends who can share with me several things, like another family, and you need no reason to go back home.
As a new member of BABSEACLE, what you all just shared about BABSEACLE makes me feel strong to keep doing what I am doing now with the team. The last question, what you think about the future of BABSEACLE?
Hien: What I appreciate about the organization is that it does not try to be the best of anything. Being competitive with other institutions working in the same field isn’t something you can find from this organization or its members. Instead, if anything at all, it tries to be the best version of itself and do that best work that it can. Therefore, I don’t think the “future” of BABSEACLE is what matters, but the prospect of all the missions that it entails for itself, which is to develop access to justice and educate better generations of lawyers.
Phuong: BABSEACLE is growing out of Southeast Asia, they are reaching almost all continents in the world. Along the way, there will be more partners, supporters who are eager to cooperate with them, for many meaningful projects in the future.
Ivy: From my opinion, each person will have different definitions about what is called “future”. Long time ago, when BABSEACLE first came to Vietnam, many people said that what BABSEACLE was doing is impossible and we should stop. The only answer that BABSEACLE gave at that time was action, we took action for the CLE movement in Vietnam and what we have now. A network of more than 10 law schools with their CLE programs and more and more law schools are interested in the CLE program. So for the future, I won’t say much about it, as I strongly believe in the true values of BABSEACLE will continue to stay and there will be many people get many positive benefits from that, and not only in Southeast Asia region.
Thank you so much for your time today, it is even more than just an interview with former employees of BABSEACLE. I wish you all success in everything you do and I believe I will see you soon in other activities with the BABSEACLE team.
By Thu Hien, Trang Ivy and Tue Phuong, former full time members of BABSEACLE Vietnam
Interviewed by Nguyen Lan Anh-BABSEACLE