ASU Law launches nation’s first Rule of Law & Governance Program
The world is facing complex and interlinked security, environmental and economic challenges. Without a stronger rule of law in countries around the globe, not only will citizens in repressive countries continue to see their basic human rights violated, but also we will not be able to achieve greater global stability and security.
The new Rule of Law & Governance Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is addressing these challenges. This unique program will prepare new generations of young lawyers for jobs that promote justice, human rights, sustainable economic development, and equality under the law across the globe.
The program, with classes in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., is led by Ambassador Clint Williamson, who has served as a state and federal prosecutor, a White House policy maker, a United Nations war crimes investigator and prosecutor, a senior official in peacekeeping missions, and as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. The director of the program is Professor Julia Fromholz, who most recently worked for two years at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, as the Senior Advisor, Rule of Law.
“At any given time, there are thousands of lawyers working around the world doing international development projects in the rule of law,” Williamson said. “But there has not been a comprehensive training program at any law school to teach lawyers how to do this type of work.”
The Rule of Law & Governance Program offers Master of Laws (LLM) and Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degrees, while juris doctor (JD) students can supplement their degree with an emphasis in rule of law and governance. The first group of students, composed of eight JDs and one LLM, started taking classes in Washington, D.C., this winter.
“I have enjoyed immensely the opportunity to teach this semester, and the ASU Law students in my class have been fantastic. Along with the U.S. students, we have students from countries as diverse as Brazil and Kenya,” Williamson said. “As a group, they have been very engaged in the discussions, and the seminar format has allowed for a very lively class dynamic.”
Third-year JD candidate Brian Musa of Kenya is among the first cohort of students taking part in the program. He is externing at the consulting firm Democracy International, which works to promote free and legitimate elections through monitoring, election administration strengthening, and supporting democratic political parties.
“All the classes under the Rule of Law & Governance Program are exciting because they are completely related to international development,” Musa said. “I get to implement the knowledge I receive in class directly at work and vice versa. We are also studying current issues in select countries that have an impact on U.S. foreign policy, and it’s fascinating to see the events unfold.”
That type of experience underscores the dynamic hands-on component of the program that will work in tandem with the academic module.
“Almost all of the students taking classes in Washington this spring are planning to stay for summer internships or post-graduation jobs,” Fromholz said. “As the program grows, students will also have the opportunity to do field work in overseas programs.”
Williamson has dubbed the field work aspect of the Rule of Law & Governance Program as a “Peace Corps for lawyers.” The goal is to have ASU Law students travel to countries in transition to help develop or strengthen the rule of law in those nations.
“We want our graduates to go out into the world and do great work, and it will be personally fulfilling that ASU Law has been a catalyst for improving people’s lives and strengthening our world,” he said.
It is fitting that ASU Law has a Rule of Law & Governance Program, as the school’s namesake, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.), has devoted her time and expertise to advocating for rule of law around the world. In addition, the O’Connor Justice Prize recognizes people who have made extraordinary contributions to advancing rule of law, justice and human rights, and to honor Justice O’Connor’s legacy.
For more information on ASU Law’s Rule of Law & Governance Program, visit law.asu.edu/ruleoflawandgovernance.