Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

Southwestern Awarded Grant to Provide Advocacy Training for Mexican Lawyers October 05, 2006
Southwestern Awarded Grant to Provide Advocacy Training for Mexican Lawyers

Program part of USAID effort to assist Mexico with legal reforms

Southwestern Law School - a leading U.S. institution in advocacy and skills training with extensive Latin American programs - has been awarded a federal grant to train Mexican lawyers and law faculty in advocacy skills as part of a USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) effort to assist Mexican legal reforms.

Several Mexican states have embarked on efforts to establish oral criminal trials - ending Mexico's traditional practice of conducting criminal trials based on written submissions and summaries of testimony compiled in a dossier. The USAID grant (to Southwestern in partnership with the Law Department of Tecnológico de Monterrey) will train Mexican professionals to assist in the reforms. Southwestern is one of only two American law schools to receive funding under the U.S.-Mexico Training, Internship, Exchanges and Scholarship (TIES) program, which was created in 2002 to advance the objectives of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through university cooperation. The grant is administered through an agreement between Higher Education for Development (a coalition of U.S. higher education associations) and USAID.

The Southwestern-Tecnológico Partnership for Advocacy Training will invest over $900,000 in resources toward training Mexican law graduates over the three-year life of the project, with $300,000 distributed by USAID and extensive training donated by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA), the premier trial advocacy training organization in the United States. The program marks the first time that Mexican law school graduates will be trained in the United States in oral trial advocacy on a USAID program.

"The grant is strong evidence of our commitment to draw on our outstanding international faculty to get even more involved with our neighbor to the south," Southwestern Dean Bryant Garth said.

Only one state in Mexico currently holds oral trials, but several states are well-advanced in reform processes. According to Southwestern Professor Jonathan Miller, an internationally recognized scholar on Latin American legal institutions and director of this program, "A move toward oral trials throughout Mexico is inevitable. Oral trials provide transparency and guarantee that the judge will evaluate witnesses first-hand. Mexico's written system meant that cases could languish for years as parties called witnesses to appear before a judge's assistants, simply to have statements entered in a record that was kept from public view. Mexico's citizens have launched protests demanding changes. Mexico's reforms pick up on a trend already occurring in much of Latin America, as Argentina, Chile and Colombia have all successfully shifted to oral trials."

Under the partnership, seven Mexican law graduates will spend a year at Southwestern taking classes focused on advocacy skills, will receive further advocacy training from NITA in Louisville, Colorado, and will participate in clinical and externship activities at Southwestern and Texas Tech University School of Law. NITA will also send groups of its trainers to Mexico to provide oral advocacy training to individuals who will become trainers in turn. Both Southwestern and Texas Tech faculty will visit Tecnológico de Monterrey to teach classes focused on improving oral advocacy training and offering practice-oriented approaches toward legal education, and Tecnológico professors will participate in academic events in the United States.

Southwestern will also work in cooperation not only with Tecnológico de Monterrey, NITA and Texas Tech, but also with the ABA Section of International Law and the Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas.