Earlier this month, Executive Director Karen Lockwood received a letter from J. C. Lore, a favorite Rutgers Law School and NITA faculty member, that is simply too stirring not to share with our larger community. J. C. wanted to report on his experience in Kenya, where he served as faculty at a Lawyers Without Borders training program last month. In 2017, Lawyers Without Borders and NITA will celebrate ten years of alliance. We continue to feel honored to support LWOB’s devotion to the global rule of law and look forward, in the spirit of cooperation toward our shared vision, to our second decade of friendship. J. C.’s letter on the Kenya appears in its entirety below.
I have been very fortunate to be a small part of NITA’s mission during the last twelve years. I have seen NITA continue to achieve great things by raising the level of advocacy throughout all areas of our profession. NITA has improved the quality of legal services for traditionally vulnerable communities, while raising the level of legal practice and professionalism in general, by making the highest quality training accessible to public interest legal professionals. In recent years, drastic state and federal budget cuts have led to extreme reductions in the amount and quality of essential skills training programs available to organizations providing legal services to low-income people and our other government agencies. In recent years and under your leadership, NITA has helped address this crisis, as many public interest organizations throughout the country have absolutely no or very limited training funds—an almost untenable position, as our adversarial legal system depends on all parties having highly skilled attorneys who can zealously advocate for them.
I also have seen the tremendous impact of NITA at the law school level. The NITA model of teaching, materials, and faculty have all become the bedrock foundation for skills teaching at law schools throughout the country. Each year, a higher percentage of law students graduate with the skills to effectively and ethically represent clients, due in large part to NITA’s influence.
Again, I feel very fortunate to be a small part of NITA’s impact on our profession and within the law school community. However, I am writing because I wanted to share a few thoughts about my most recent experience reaching a global community by teaching for NITA in Kenya. I have a great deal of experience and deep commitment to donating my time to teaching and training public interest lawyers around the country. Teaching in Kenya was the most professionally and personally enriching teaching experience of my entire teaching career.
I met a tremendous group of Kenyan lawyers and judges who were committed to the betterment of the Kenyan legal system, and who demonstrated a deep passion and love for Kenya. They were warm, welcoming, and receptive to our ideas, commitment, and passion. Teaching in this program wasn’t simply about raising the level of the profession in Kenya, but it also was about empowering a group of people to protect and improve the country that they love. The importance of this global mission and NITA’s support for it cannot be overstated.
I also wanted to mention the partnership with Lawyers Without Borders. Alyson Finley, Amy Hirst, as well as others at Lawyers Without Borders are simply superstars. Their leadership, support, and knowledge were instrumental in making the program such a huge success. They provided the organization, structure, and flexibility that a program needs to thrive. What they were able to pull off, thousands of miles from home, in developing and supporting the core components of the program is something few others could do. Lawyers Without Borders has created high-quality materials to support both the faculty and participants. They provided educational materials to support the lectures and workshop sessions during the program, but also amazingly effective materials the participants could take with them as quick reference guides. Their knowledge and support made this a stress-free experience for the faculty. We were simply able to show up and do what we do—teach, connect with the participants, and connect with each other. Their on-the-ground knowledge, commitment to providing the highest quality training and materials, and passion and love for what they do made this program the great success that it was.
In addition to the relationships we established with the people of Kenya, getting the opportunity to teach alongside so many wonderful lawyers from around the world was a fantastic experience. As you know, spending time with members of our “NITA Family” is one of the things that bring us back together to teach all around the world. By extension, working with the law firms who partner with Lawyers Without Borders felt like we were adding to that big teaching family. I think what was most exciting was to see and hear about the impact the program had on them both professionally and personally. In teaching for NITA and at Rutgers, I am inspired by program participants and students on a regular basis. For many of the law firm faculty, it was a first, or at least unique, experience teaching in this format, being part of such an inspiring and transformative project, and being part of a teaching team that quickly started to feel like a family. Our team quickly and easily bonded around our shared mission. At night and in the morning, I heard the personal stories about how this type of experience made them feel energized, impassioned, and even more committed to the mission of Lawyers Without Borders and institutions like NITA. They spoke about the emotional impact of helping a legal system continue to advance, protecting one of Kenya’s greatest natural resources, and providing the level of training to individual lawyers and judges that is commensurate with the best training money can buy.
NITA’s impact on students, lawyers, and the rule of law throughout the world is something that I feel very proud to be a part of. I look forward to spending the rest of my professional life being a small part of NITA’s impact on our wonderful profession here in the United States by training law students and lawyers. If called upon again, I look forward to being a part of NITA’s global mission to improve the rule of law and advocacy around the world—a mission that I was honored and proud to be a part of. I hope that NITA is able to dedicate the resources to continue this work and reach people around the world.