Canadian, French and Japanese bar associations this week launched a training program for Cambodian lawyers that will cover every aspect of practicing law, from the first contact with a client to procedures when appearing before the Supreme Court.
Organized by the Canadian Bar Association in cooperation with the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the program will consist of two- to five-day sessions held over a 10-month period.
At law school “you learn to think like a lawyer; [during these sessions] you will learn to act like a lawyer,” said Josee Tremblay, a Canadian lawyer specializing in civil and common law and the program coordinator.
Since participants are attorneys who already should have a knowledge of Cambodian laws and regulations, she said, “the emphasis will be on practical training.”
Trainers will use an actual land-law case and Cambodia’s laws and regulations for discussions that will cover both civil and criminal laws. Nearly half of the Cambodian Bar Association’s membership, has registered for the program.
Suy Nou, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice, acknowledged, “We’re lacking in many areas ”of practical knowledge.
John Hoyles, executive director of the Canadian Bar Association, said the program is a crucial step in developing the judiciary. “If you don’t have the [legal] infrastructure, things don’t get fixed,” he said.
Cambodian lawyers frequently come under fire from critics who contend they are poorly trained. The country’s judiciary was dismantled under the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1970s, when the regime executed lawyers and court officials alike.
The judiciary’s reconstruction was hampered by civil war during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Helping lawyers operate professional legal practices will reinforce the country’s basic legal structure and, Hoyles said, “the rest will follow.”
The program is a first step towards the Cambodian Bar Association establishing a post-university school to train students for the bar exam.