We Are ABA ROLI: A Reminder from Pakistani Law Students

By Mary Greer

‘We Are ABA ROLI’ is a blog series inviting staff members to share why they do the work that they do.

ABA ROLI’s Senior Criminal Law Advisor, Mary Greer, judges with Mustafa Aleem, the main organizer of QLC’s first national moot court competition in Lahore, Pakistan. 

After a long weekend of flying nearly 35 hours, I choked up as I read a generous note from the amazing Mustafa Aleem. And it wasn’t the jet lag. It was the sincerity of the thank you and the very timely reminder of why we do this work. And it is why I do this work.

"You have given us respect and a lesson: to make more leaders and help others, thank you,” Mustafa said.

Mustafa is the head of the Quaid-e-Azam Law College (QLC) Moot Society and the main organizer of QLC’s first ever national moot court competition, for which I was invited to judge. Eight teams of three students each traveled from all over Pakistan to compete; one team even traveled 24 hours each way over dangerous mountain passes.

After spending countless hours untangling and analyzing a complicated international war crimes fact pattern, identifying and refining the issues, researching the law, organizing their litigation strategy, and writing briefs, the participants advocated for their "clients" during oral arguments. I reviewed and scored the briefs of all eight participants, and sat with other experts judging the oral arguments.

I was honored to be asked to be a judge. But students typically get no academic credit for participating and it is an extra burden for faculty members to "coach them." So why bother?

Because it's worth it to the students, whose skills are enhanced beyond measure, at a critical formative time — skills that ensure a young lawyer's analytical and advocacy abilities are grounded in a strong foundation, and are of the highest caliber.

It's worth it to communities, who directly benefit from the efforts of lawyers willing to take on their causes and injustices, and especially in fragile countries like Pakistan, become the next generation of community leaders.

It's worth it to justice systems, which become stronger and more efficient as lawyers become better skilled and responsive in addressing the wrongs burdening those communities.

It’s ever so worth it to donors and implementers (like the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative and its partner Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law), as these types of skill-building programs provide exponential benefit and impact long after the life of the grant.

And finally, it is worth it to us as rule of law implementers who get to have an amazing professional and personal experience. I loved chatting with the students during breaks and meals, and got to hang out with them a bit during an evening celebration including delicious Pakistani food, skits, music, and a bonfire.

The students are bright, inquisitive, and excited to be launching into their careers. And most importantly, they want to be better. The young aspiring lawyer who was voted “Best Oralist” came up to us immediately afterwards and asked how she could improve. She had not even called her parents yet. And, it is hard to express how excited I was walking into the finals after six rounds of anonymous judging, to see that five of the six finalists were women.

The bottom line is the work of lawyers is critical not only for individual clients or communities, but to the protection of the rule of law and democratic principles all over the world, including the U.S. After 15 years in practice and nearly 20 years in international development, it’s still about doing what you can every single day, to bring some kind of justice, fairness and relief, to individuals and communities.

And Mustafa — it is you and your inspiring colleagues and participants that have reminded me of many important lessons. I thank each and every one of you.

Mary Greer is a Senior Criminal Law Advisor for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative.

To learn more about our work, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.