June 2013
Enthusiastic Trainees Suggest Bright Future for Mock Trial in Years Ahead

As this is the last year of EWMI’s Program on Rights and Justice II in Cambodia (PRAJ II), special efforts are being made to ensure the sustainability of gains made by the Legal Education program, among others. For its duration, PRAJ II has seen client-counseling and mock trial competitions conducted annually across Cambodia’s law faculties. Each year, the participants in the Mock Trial competition have been assisted in learning legal fundamentals through a two-day Advocacy Skills Workshop, facilitated by two lawyers from the Mayer Brown Law Firm, Matthew Rooney and Marc Kadish.

As this may be the last year that their facilitation is funded, PRAJ II organized a training of the trainers (TOT) event around this year’s Advocacy Skills Workshop that would train Cambodian law professors how to conduct these workshops in the future. The advocacy skills program has always gone beyond teaching the fundamentals of three lawyer skills (direct and cross-examination, and closing argument); it has conveyed critical thinking and illustrated the role of a lawyer as an agent for social change and human rights.

The program has relied heavily on clips from the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” (Mockingbird) to make points about social justice and the power of a conscientious lawyer to contribute to it. While the response from the student participants has shown that the film is effective in explaining legal skills and the lawyer’s broader social role, the use of a film set in 1930’s Alabama may present challenges to Cambodian trainers who have little context for it. One of the trainers’ main concerns was whether this tool would be effective in the future.

The TOT event took place at the EWMI’s PRAJ II office in Cambodia for a full day before the Advocacy Skills Workshop on March 27-28, and for a half-day on the day after. It was designed to book-end the workshop and required a total of three-and-a-half days of participation from the trainees.

Professors from eight law schools were invited and 15 representatives from seven of them attended. The TOT event consisted primarily of a review of the students’ training, with an explanation of training objectives and methods that support the transfer of knowledge, skills, and motivation. Presentation materials were explained and scripts provided to all participants.

The second half-day was largely devoted to answering questions that came out of the students’ training and in discussing how law schools could move forward with the program. The trainers specifically discussed the use of Mockingbird as a central reference point. To their relief, the trainees expressed a strong interest in maintaining it as a key training component, as well as keeping elements relating to social justice in the program.