Read Part 1 of this series: here
More than half of the 90+ law students that took part in the program were female, and several of them approached Turpin and Levine with a personal question. The students wanted advice on how to balance their careers with their personal lives. Turpin and Levine decided that this conversation warranted more than just a five-minute answer, so they put together a session at the end of the week in order to address any questions the female students had on this topic.
After the certificate ceremony that marked the end of the program, the female lawyers who were part of the DLA/BI team hosted a two hour session where they talked to the 50 or so female students in attendance. The six teachers represented a continuum of experience, from those just starting their careers to those who had a great deal of experience. “They asked terrific questions, the same ones we hear in the U.S.,” Levine explains. “But it wasn’t a question of ‘how do I balance the two,’ because they don’t have a balance. They have been told they have to choose: career or family. Even their own families discouraged them to go to law school, saying it would negatively affect their personal lives.” They were also told that women cannot be good litigators because they are not taken seriously in court, and there is a real lack of diversity initiatives for women and female role models.
“This was a unique opportunity for them, this access to accomplished women,” says Andrews. “It spoke volumes about the students themselves, being assertive and asking for assistance.” She also notes that she recently heard from some of the graduates of the program who have started to plan their own women’s group.
The attorneys from DLA Piper and BI who went on the trip have many priceless memories from the experience. Many are heartwarming, but some are also amusing. “The only life threating event/thing was the power outlet in our classroom,” remembers Guntrum with a wink. “I was frightened to pull the plug in the outlet. But we survived.”
Despite the difficult conditions of the school, the students showed their dedication to the program. Turpin recalled a student that travelled by bus and by foot for more than 12 hours to get to school, but he wore a silk suit and tie to class every day. All of the attorneys remarked that the students showed great dedication, staying longer than necessary, asking great questions and showing initiative. The school’s dean stated that he had never seen the students so happy and engaged. BI even decided to give an internship to one of the program participants and received over 40 applications.
All of the lawyers from BI and DLA Piper who taught in the week long course stated that it was an unforgettable and life-changing experience for them, and they have received dozens of letters and emails from their students indicating that they feel the same way. While the lives of lawyers in the United States and Europe are hectic and busy, it’s good to know that, if they take the time to reach out and share their skills with others, they can make a profound difference in the lives of individuals like the students at UNZA. And they can feel good about their own efforts as well.