The Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia (UL) has officially launched a Justice Hotline Service Clinic for students. The Hotline Clinic will be supervised by technical legal persons. It is set up to receive information from callers in targeted counties and make a referral for appropriate legal advice on cases.
Liberia’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, officially launched the program.
It is funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the United States Department of State through the Carter Center.
The launch, which was held on Wednesday, Nov. 2, brought together government representatives, UL officials, students, lawyers, and other invitees, among others.
Twelve students from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law will be rendering services through the Justice Hotline Service Clinic in Bong, Nimba, Lofa, and Grand Gedeh Counties.
Justice Minister Dean admonished law students who will be participating in the Justice Hotline Service Clinic to do their research and study so that they do not misinform people.
Further, he said while the students are helping people through the program, they would also be helping themselves because it adds to their knowledge.
Minister Dean said he was elated to be back at the Law School to launch the program “which will help the people.”
Additionally, Minister Dean explained that the Government has been engaged in reforms in the law, noting that there are organizations that are legal actors training judges, magistrates, and clerks because it wants to preserve the rule of law and give as many people access to justice.
Minister Dean said the Carter Center was instrumental in the government’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program.
“Now we have the legal aid program. There’s a law already … we’ll be having legal aid very soon and it is intended to place legal services at the disposal of so many of our people,” he said.
Atty. Kpadeson Sumo, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Law, representing the Dean of the Law School Prof. Dr. Jallah A. Barbu, welcomed everyone to the program.
He explained that the Law School is collaborating with Carter Center in providing an outreach program that will give hands-on experience to law students and at the same time provide community service for people in the targeted counties. Associate Dean Sumo said callers will provide information to participating students supervised by technical legal persons and an administrator.
“The program has been coming for a long time. We entered a memorandum of understanding with the Carter Center to provide this unique service,” said Associate Dean Sumo.
While the University pilots this service, Associate Dean Sumo said the institution also anticipates rolling it out in the communities in a mobile clinic approach along the way.
He added that the Law School also has another understanding with the United Nations Development Program for a legal aid clinic.
“So there’s a combination of clinical work going on here that will provide means of supporting our students in learning on the job, [and] at the same time providing outreach service to our community and to our people in providing access to justice and legal information,” he said.
Carter Center Country Representative Mr. Dorbor Jallah said the program is an experiment, and it is hoped that a lot can be learned from the pilot program.
Mr. Jallah said he hopes that the University of Liberia and its law school can build on the lessons learned from the pilot program to be able to expand it.
“So it’s … important, it’s a very wonderful opportunity that we have come to work with the Law School to be able to kick start … this pilot which hopefully the Law School will then build upon to be able to expand this to a full-fledged program,” said Mr. Jallah.
He thanked the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the United States Department of State for providing the funding through the Carter Center.
Representing the University of Liberia Administration, Cllr. Viama Blama, Vice President for Legal Affairs, committed the support of the institution to the program and every activity of the Law School.
Student Robert Henry Johnson, II, Vice President of the Law Students Association (LAWSA) at UL, thanked Carter Center and the University Administration for the partnership to give students hands-on experience.
He assured that participating students would grace the project and make maximum use of it for their learning process.