In December of 2011, Gonzaga Law professor Cheryl Beckett traveled to Rwanda as a part of a Rule of Law delegation for People-to-People Ambassador’s Program. Seventeen months later, at the invitation of the Rwanda Ministry of Justice, Beckett is leading a group of eight lawyers and two law students on a one-week pro bono trip that will help train Rwandan lawyers in domestic and international contract law and arbitration.
Addressing Challenges in the Rwandan Legal System
The biggest legal challenge in Rwanda is this lack of legal training. The country has an advocate-to-population ratio of 1 to over 16,000. Compared to the United States, where the ratio is 1 in 265, lawyers in Rwanda have little opportunity to build their knowledge of new legal systems and international law. The group led by Beckett will be spending the week of May 26 – June 1 focusing on contract development, negotiation, drafting, enforcement, and domestic and international arbitration. These classes will help Rwandan lawyers address many of the domestic and international investment legal questions that are very pertinent to helping their economy rebuild.
A Truly Pro Bono Trip
Beckett, the seven associated lawyers, and two students who will be taking this trip to Rwanda are doing so pro bono. Participants are paying for their own travel and their own expenses to present this continuing legal education program. The group of volunteer lawyers includes attorneys who work in international law, real estate, environmental law, commercial litigation, municipal services, non-profits, securities, international investments, and more.
Two GU Law Students Joining The Effort
Two Gonzaga Law students joining in the trip to Rwanda, Makenzi Weymer and Kaitlin Roach, will both be 3L students in the 2013-2014 school year. They will be assisting the attorneys in the practical exercises that will be a part of this program. While some of the costs of the trip for the two students have been paid for by Jessie and Aleana Harris, 1999 Gonzaga Law graduates, Weymer and Roach are covering the major part of their own expenses. “From the moment Makenzi and Kaitlin heard that I was working on this, they expressed a desire to go,” explains Beckett. “I had focused on Rwanda as the developing country in their Comparative Labor and Employment Law class last summer. Kaitlin had also worked on a research project on Rwanda as an undergrad.”