DLA Piper has launched a new pro bono partnership with the Law School at The University of the South Pacific (USP), as part of its commitment to protecting and promoting the rule of law in the Pacific region.
The partnership’s inaugural project provided training for 22 final year law students from Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Samoa – designed to strengthen their practical legal skills, and encourage a new generation of pro bono and social justice advocates.
Delivered by DLA Piper lawyers Catriona Martin and Michael Gill, the week-long training in Port Vila used interactive teaching methods to allow students to ‘learn through doing’, as part of their Law Clinic and Community Law Information Centre studies.
Catriona Martin, DLA Piper’s Asia Pacific Pro Bono Director, said: "As part of our commitment to supporting the rule of law, DLA Piper has undertaken pro bono work and training in the Pacific region since 2008. This is the first time we have supported the University of South Pacific and its law students, and we are delighted to embark on this new partnership.
"The inaugural project was a huge success. Students brought their own unique insights and experiences from their home islands, and it was a privilege to teach such an inspirational and dedicated group of young leaders, to develop the skills they need to improve access to justice and support the economic development of their own countries."
Nicolas Patrick, DLA Piper partner and Global Head of Pro Bono, said: "DLA Piper has continued to expand its regional work to strengthen the rule of law, and we are firmly committed to supporting the development of the region's lawyers through knowledge sharing and capacity building. We’re proud to be partnering with the University of the South Pacific, and it’s wonderful to see such strong interest from the students in pro bono work."
Professor Eric Colvin, Head of School of Law, said: "I am delighted that DLA Piper has taken this initiative facilitating the Law Clinic students in a week’s training, developing their practical skills and reminding them of the ethics of their calling."
Naomi Nawasaitoga, Manager of the USP Emalus Campus Community Law Information Centre, said: "The training has given students fresh perspectives and boosted their confidence where they have gained more knowledge and skills which will be of great value to them in the administration of justice and the rule of law."
Using a combination of practical group exercises, presentations, simulations, and case studies, students explored topics such as pro bono and access to justice, and practiced skills in client interviewing and legal drafting. Feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive:
Keresi Nauwakarawa said: "[The course] really expanded my horizons as an upcoming lawyer – to be reminded about our privileged profession, and the legal sense of giving back to the community, especially through pro bono."
Laisa Satala said: "I will use this as an opportunity to help people in my community [in Fiji] access justice. The skills, knowledge and values gained from this course has brought a holistic approach to how I treat my client… Overall [this course] has impacted how I think, my skills and this career field – and all the more positively."
Charles Bosi Anna said: "This training was useful in many ways however I will personally use this training to help my country, the Solomon Islands, by helping people have access to justice, pro bono and legal awareness in future."
Around the world, DLA Piper lawyers are working pro bono to ensure access to justice, promote the rule of law, and provide legal services to those unable to afford a lawyer. In 2016, DLA Piper donated more than 230,000 hours globally to pro bono and community projects.