The Social Justice Lawyer Training Program at BAI is building the next generation of skilled, motivated human rights lawyers working alongside Haiti’s grassroots movements to compel fundamental social change. BAI brings together lawyers-in-training to collectively develop the skills and experience needed to address the root causes of violence, poverty, and marginalization in Haiti and other resource-poor settings. The current program includes finissants, law school graduates who have not yet completed the memoire (thesis) requirement, and stagiaires, apprentice lawyers who have defended their memoire and been accepted by the bar association. The finissants receive formal and informal instruction on research methodology, writing, and legal skills, while preparing their memoires and assisting with BAI cases. All are mentored by BAI senior attorneys and receive hands on training in social justice lawyering through day to day work on BAI legal cases. Stagiaires develop their legal skills through supervised work on BAI human rights cases and participation weekly training sessions. The apprentice duration is typically two years.
BAI has provided training and mentoring in rights-based social justice lawyering to recent Haitian law school graduates since 1996. BAI and IJDH have also trained lawyers and law students from over 15 countries outside Haiti. In 2013, BAI and IJDH partnered with the Bertha Foundation to build a fully structured Haitian training program with designated mentors that is integrated into the Be Just Network. There are typically about 10 long-term trainees active at any given time, between the Bertha Fellows and other law graduate trainees at BAI and IJDH.
The Haitian training program mentors idealistic, talented law school graduates through the two major obstacles to bar admission—completion of a thesis, and an internship—while providing them with the training they need to become effective people’s lawyers. This opens up opportunities for people who may not have the means for bar admission on their own, which in turn increases economic diversity within the Haitian justice system.
This work is not just creating a corps of passionate, motivated lawyers trained to help the majority of Haitians, who are poor, to enforce their basic human rights. It is also seeding the Haitian justice system more broadly with lawyers committed to human rights. The Social Justice Lawyer program is creating a social justice legal community in Haiti, where none currently exists outside of the BAI network. Past BAI trainees have gone on to serve as top judges, prosecutors and ministry officials in Haiti; with human rights groups; and in international tribunals and public interest law organizations throughout the world.