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Fordham Law Students Implement Clinical Legal Education Program in Ghana

The Leitner Center for International Law and Justice’s Sustainable Development Legal Initiative (SDLI) has launched a new academic program that will help promote development through the rule of law in the West African nation of Ghana. The International Development Project centers on a spring-semester course on international law of development, taught concurrently at Fordham Law and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Faculty of Law. 

Under the supervision of SDLI Director Paolo Galizzi and SDLI Fellow Alena Herklotz at Fordham Law and Ernest Abotsi at KNUST in Kumasi, students from both institutions study sustainable development law and practice, as well as proposal drafting and project design. They then form Fordham-KNUST teams to develop their own concrete project proposals. At the end of the term, SDLI selects one project for funding. The Fordham Law students who designed the chosen project travel to Ghana the following summer to work alongside their KNUST partners in bringing the project to fruition.

The winning proposal for 2008 was developed by Fordham Law students Corina Bogaciu ‘09, Caroline Frank ‘09, Adam Masser ‘09, Beth Scott ‘09 and Erin Tucker ’08, and KNUST Faculty of Law students Evans Amankwah, Cynthia Nimo-Ampredu, Stephen Ofori, Nana Sekyere-Boateng and Shadrack Obeng Yeboah. Their project aims to establish a student-driven law clinic at KNUST with dual goals: to promote sustainable development by mobilizing law students to provide direct legal services and to build legal capacity by providing law students with the opportunity to develop professional judgment and skills in a real practice setting and fostering a commitment to pro bono work, public interest and human rights.

The Fordham Law and KNUST students worked in Kumasi and local villages in the Ashanti region over the summer to implement their project. The newly established clinical program initially will focus on two issues: women’s inheritance insecurity and alternative dispute resolution.

The clinic’s inheritance insecurity project will provide legal education and services to people, particularly women, who otherwise have limited access to justice and protection of the law. Working under the supervision of Mr. Abotsi, the Fordham-KNUST team developed the clinic curriculum, handbook, field manuals and substantive legal programs. They also built partnerships with local government, community leaders and tribal chiefs and successfully organized a series of educational workshops and legal consultation sessions in three communities in Adansi North, a rural region near Kumasi. The workshops were open to all community members and designed to educate participants about their legal rights and to provide free services and counseling for those individuals and/or couples seeking to register their marriages, to draft wills and to settle disputes.

The Fordham-KNUST team also began alternative dispute resolution (ADR) training for tribal chiefs to build their capacity to conduct legally binding arbitrations. The project’s first session was attended by 35 tribal chiefs, council members and other community leaders from surrounding villages. Mr. Abotsi and the students delivered lectures and conducted formal interviews on ADR and other legal issues. Future plans include follow-up visits to observe an arbitration and sit on an arbitration panel, with the goals of providing assistance, deepening the learning process for all parties involved and increasing the use of available legal tools.

Mr. Abotsi will serve as the faculty supervisor for the new clinic. The SDLI funding award for the project covers an introductory two-year phase, during which the clinic will continue to grow and expand with new projects and initiatives. In addition, the International Development Project has itself been transformed into an International Sustainable Development Clinic at Fordham Law.

Pictures of Fordham students’ trip to Ghana are available at: http://picasaweb.google.com/adamator/Ghana2008.

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Leitner Center for International Law and Justice
Fordham University School of Law
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Email: LeitnerCenter@law.fordham.edu
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