The School of Law is dedicated to a global vision, working to advance justice around the world, while bringing back to Baltimore the best ideas our complex and changing world has to offer. To advance that mission, in 2010 UMDLaw established one of the first clinics of its kind at any American law school.
The new International and Comparative Law Clinic enabled students to spend eight weeks working in-country on emerging legal issues in China, Namibia, and Mexico. In Mexico, four students worked with a transnational workers’ rights law center that focuses on the working conditions of migrant workers in the U.S. The students prepared for the trip by reviewing a 1,000-page Freedom of Information Act request in a case involving 10 hog pen workers in the Midwest. After meeting with clients in Zacatecas, the students decided to change their legal strategy.
"It was very important that we were on the ground and were able to go into the community," says Carlos Guevara ´11. "It was instrumental for us to see the merits of our claim."
In Namibia, six students took on a variety of projects, including claims for access to drinking water and working on a report about paralegals, hoping to enhance the legal infrastructure of a country with fewer than 500 lawyers for a population of more than 2 million.
"You could have the most progressive constitution in the world, and Namibia has one of them, but when you go into the countryside people don't know their rights," says Emily Siedell ´11.
Three other students worked in China on microcredit programs, which allow the poorest in society to borrow money.
The Clinic builds on the Law School's groundbreaking LEAD Initiative, which helps students develop the cross-cultural competence they will need to practice law in today's global arena.
"The LEAD Initiative keeps Maryland at the forefront of innovative legal education. This new clinic will expand law-related skills of citizens globally as well as provide unique opportunities for our students and faculty to collaborate and interact with lawyers from an international perspective," said Dean Phoebe Haddon.
Ravi Kambhampaty ´10, who went to Namibia, sums up the feelings of all the clinic participants: "When you see people who want to improve their situation, you want to help."