The Friends of the Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan (FPJRA) was recently featured in an article in The National Law Journal. FPJRA is a partnership made up of the U.S. Department of State, law firms and selected U.S. law schools designed to support the rule of law by training young Afghan lawyers. Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law has been a leader in this program.

Each year in the FPJRA program, up to 11 lawyers from Afghanistan come to the states for one year of legal study. Participating law schools waive tuition and the State Department covers travel and living expenses. The scholars are hand-selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants. Those who do not return to Afghanistan must repay the costs of their studies.

“The scholars assume a certain level of risk, given the powerful forces opposing reform both within the Afghan government and anti-government insurgency, according to Tom Umberg, the program’s co-chairman and a former military lawyer now in private practice. ‘They are unbelievably courageous and idealistic,’ he said. ‘They are putting the national interest above their own personal interest because coming to the U.S. to study can be dangerous for them.’ Female attorneys face even higher hurdles, given their relatively small numbers, limited access to education and entrenched cultural expectations.”

Nooria Sallam (LL.M. ’14), Fowler School of Law alumna and women’s rights advocate, was quoted in the article, “For sure it is dangerous…But we have to do something to bring change. I am the only female lawyer in my province and my village. There are many harmful traditional practices against women, and in order to eliminate those practices I have to work and raise legal awareness.” In 2012, Fowler Afghan LL.M. students Munira Akhunzada and Shamsi Maqsoudi were featured in an in-depth story on NPR affiliate KPCC.

“Host law schools also benefit from the presence of the scholars on campus,’ said Ronald Steiner, director of law graduate programs at Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, which admits two Afghan women to its LL.M. program each year. ‘I think the students and faculty who interact with them really think about the rule of law and what it means not to have that basis,’ he said. And when the scholars return to Afghanistan, they build upon a network comprising those who have gone before.”

Since its inception in 2007, the program has helped 35 Afghan lawyers obtain masters of laws degrees. Jones Day partner Peter Garvin, who sits on the program’s executive committee, hopes that “over the next few years there will be 100 or 200 highly educated young people working on the ground to improve the justice system in Afghanistan…It has the potential for a very large impact.”

Learn more about the LL.M. programs at Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law.