Stanford Law School’s Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP) has been awarded a $7.2 million U.S. Department of State grant through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL/State) to support its partnership with the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in developing a five-year integrated Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degree program at AUAF’s campus in Kabul. The objective is to train Afghan students to become professional lawyers who can provide legal services, help enforce the nation’s new constitution and stabilize the rule of law, and become legal educators for the next generation of leaders in Afghanistan. “The project has terrific momentum right now,” says Julian Simcock, JD ’13, ALEP co-executive director. “We have plans for new classes, new translation efforts, and a new library. But the grant also carries an important message. ALEP has benefited immeasurably from faculty guidance and student engagement in Kabul, and this type of long-term commitment to those individuals is important.”
ALEP was launched in 2007 at Stanford Law School as a student-led initiative partnering with AUAF to produce legal textbooks and develop legal curriculum. In its first initiative, ALEP produced a textbook of secular laws, setting them out in systematic order and providing insight into how they interact with Islamic and customary laws. ALEP has since produced four textbooks, including an introduction to Afghanistan law and detailed analysis of commercial law, criminal law, and international law (from an Afghan perspective). The fifth and sixth texts covering constitutional law and professional responsibility are currently in production. The new law degree program will build upon a certificate in legal studies program that the partnership introduced last year. Law classes have proved very popular on the Kabul campus: Approximately 200 students took them last spring, and every class was oversubscribed. The law degree curriculum will emphasize practical skills, professional responsibility, and substantive instruction in criminal, commercial, comparative, Islamic, and international law.
“This grant is the culmination of over five years of hard work by students and faculty at Stanford Law School and leadership and faculty at AUAF. I am grateful to INL/State Department for this grant,” says Erik G. Jensen, director of Stanford Law’s Rule of Law Program, faculty advisor for ALEP, and professor of the practice of law at Stanford. “INL/State recognizes and supports our long track record of success in offering quality legal education in Afghanistan. The grant is important to students and faculty at Stanford and AUAF, to the expansion of legal education in Afghanistan, and, in some small but significant way, to the future of U.S.-Afghan relations as this successful education project will be implemented well beyond the 2014 scheduled ratcheting down of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.”
Thomas Hushek, director of the INL/State bureau in Kabul, affirms the emphasis on legal education in Afghanistan, “The partnership between the United States and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan includes a joint commitment to increasing Afghans’ access to quality higher education. Legal education is a critical element of justice reform, and ALEP’s expansion ensures that U.S. support in this area will include AUAF as a valuable private institution partner, together with our long-term partners in the public university system. The State Department is very pleased to support a program that has such significant interest from students at AUAF and Stanford alike.”
“We’re tremendously excited by news of this wonderful grant,” says AUAF President C. Michael Smith. “We’ve built a strong partnership with Stanford for providing legal instruction in Afghanistan, and we are very pleased that we’ll be continuing this partnership in a full law degree program. Most important, however, is the difference this program will make for Afghan students, who will now be able to earn a law degree here in Afghanistan that, with Stanford’s involvement, will meet international standards for excellence.”