A New Day: Prime Time to Advance Afghan Clinical Education

Published date01 January 2016
Date01 January 2016
Subject MatterArticles
A New Day: Prime Time to Advance
Afghan Clinical Education
Stephen A. Rosenbaum1,2
In a previous issue of the journal, Richard Grimes discussed the role that legal clinics can play in
facilitating access to justice in a post-conflict society, such as Afghanistan’s, wracked by decades of
civil war, external military intervention and consequential regime changes.3 As foreign military forces
withdraw, this Central Asian nation faces renewed security concerns and uncertainty about its politico-
economic future. Yet, there is now a critical mass of law and Shari’a professors trained in the principles
of experiential education, a few legal clinics are in place and many deans are keen on hosting a clinic,
with a vigorous nod of approval from the higher education ministry. Piloting a clinical programme
requires a team of faculty members who remain in continuous contact with their peers across the
nation and across the globe. This should include a partnership with a reputable law school abroad;
support from in-country administrative staff; and periodic visits by consultants.
In addition, legal faculties and university administrators need to nurture clinical education by
facilitating the development of new curricula, service learning and interdisciplinary and inter-university
collaboration and exchange. While they needn’t reinvent policies, protocols or perhaps even priority
assessments, they must remain vigilant that clinical legal education not be divorced from the rest of
the curriculum. The temptation to purchase durable goods will be great, but the clinic staff should
be much more strategic and frugal about ways for students, staff and clients to access information
and a space for consultation, training and work. Finally, an essential but elusive goal is to maintain a
relationship with donors that is marked by candour and coordination of activities with other funders.
1 Associate Professor, Golden Gate University School of Law, California, USA.
2 John and Elizabeth Boalt Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, USA.
3 R. Grimes, Accessing Justice: The Role of Law School Legal Clinics in Conflict-affected Societies, 1(2) AsiAn J. LegAL educ.
Asian Journal of Legal Education
3(1) 1–21
© 2016 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2322005815607131
Corresponding author:
Stephen A. Rosenbaum, 1716 Milvia St., Berkeley, CA 94709 USA.
E-mails: srosenbaum@ggu.edu; srosenbaum@law.berkeley.edu
Acknowledgements: From 2012 to 2014, the author was Visiting Senior Lecturer, University of Washington (UW)
School of Law. Under the auspices of the UW Legal Education Support Program—Afghanistan (LESPA), Professor
Rosenbaum co-taught a tutorial in comparative clinical education for Afghan LLM candidates and conducted
workshops in Afghanistan for law and Shari’a faculty members and students from across the country. This article
is dedicated to all the Afghan LLM graduates from UW. The views expressed here are solely those of the author
and do not necessarily reect those of UW or LESPA.
2 Asian Journal of Legal Education 3(1)
Afghanistan faces an uncertain future with the official departure of foreign combat troops and a
resurgence by Taliban and other anti-government forces.4 The political and economic survival of this
Central Asian nation is being closely monitored by international diplomats, military officers, human
rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and development specialists. ‘New Day’ (Nowruz in
Farsi) is an allusion to the holiday that marks the beginning of the Persian New Year and Spring Equinox.
This past year, the celebration of Nowruz, observed in parts of the world under the cultural influence of
Iran, took on a special significance in Afghanistan ‘as the country embarked upon a new path of peace
and independence’.5 This turning point presents an opportunity for furthering legal education innovation
in which the participants’ consumption of time and assumption of risk take on a new meaning.
The law and Shari’a faculties6 now have a critical mass of professors who are familiar with the
principles of interactive teaching and experiential education,7 and a number of students eager to practise
professional lawyering skills and to assist real clients. Many deans and other administrators are keen on
the idea of hosting a legal clinic or an innovative educational initiative.
Piloting a clinical programme requires a team of dedicated professors who are willing to be engaged
and accountable, and to exercise leadership—some of whom have a background in practice or relevant
field of substantive law. This team of junior and senior faculty members should remain in continuous
and long-term contact with their peers and practitioners across the nation, and with clinicians in the
Global South and North, through conferences, Skype calls and on-site exchanges for work, study and
observation. This should include a partnership with an established law school for study, clinical practice
and clinic tutorials and periodic visits by consultants who offer hands-on technical assistance and
critique. This kind of continuous, contemporaneous, face-to-face contact with veteran clinicians from
the Unites States (US), Europe, Australia or Asia is invaluable in helping to keep neophyte clinical
instructors ‘on track’.
4 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) formally ended its mission
in December 2014. In several parts of the country, the Taliban insurgency and political control has never actually subsided since
the demise of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in December 2001. In fact, civilian casualties have increased and Taliban
attacks have spread to new provinces since a smaller number of American and international troops replaced ISAF in January 2015.
Joseph Goldstein & Mujib Mashal, Taliban Fighters Capture Kunduz City as Afghan Forces Retreat, The new York Times,
29 September 2015, at p. A-1, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/29/world/asia/taliban-fighters-enter-city-of-kunduz-
in-northern-afghanistan.html (last visited October 15, 2015). In addition to other anti-government militants, there are also
fundamentalist threats to democratic governance posed by the more recent influx of fighters aligned with the Islamic State (Daesh).
Sudarsan Raghavan, Foreign Fighters are Spilling into Afghanistan, Helping the Taliban, The wAshingTon PosT, 14 April 2015,
p. A-6, available at https://advance.lexis.com (last visited October 15, 2015).
5 Sayed Jawad, Afghanistan Celebrates Nowruz, khAAmA Press, 21 March 2015, available at http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-
celebrates-nowruz-new-year-9946 (last visited July 10, 2015). The Commander of the New Resolute Support Mission evoked
these same words in his holiday message and further declared: ‘Nowruz is the time to celebrate…the rebirth of the world around
us. Rebirth and renewal are fitting sentiments for Afghanistan….This year, we look forward to seeing this ancient land continue to
become a stable, peaceful and prosperous country. Manana Tashakur.’ Id.
6 The terms ‘legal programme’ or ‘legal faculties’ may be used when referring jointly to the faculty of law and political science and
to the Shari’a faculty.
7 Education and training of these professors has been overseen in large part by Legal Education Support Program-Afghanistan
(LESPA), a collaborative effort of the United States (US) State Department, Afghan Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) and
various public Afghan legal faculties, as administered by the University of Washington (UW) School of Law, available at https://
www.law.washington.edu/Programs/LESPA/ (last visited July 10, 2015). Other NGOs actively involved in supporting Afghan
clinical legal education have included the Open Society Foundations, Global Rights, International Law Foundation and TetraTech
DPK. See infra text accompanying notes 26–30.

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