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Soft Skills Development for Participatory Communication | USMBA Law Clinic, Fes

byKatie Bercegeay
onDecember 10, 2019

Twenty-nine master’s and doctorate-level law students participated in the second of a series of workshops and trainings designed to prepare the students to work in a new law clinic to be housed at the Faculty of Juridical, Economic, and Social Sciences at the University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in Fes. Fourteen of the students were women; fifteen men.

The workshop focused on Interpersonal Development and Participatory Communication. Facilitated primarily by professional personal development coach Mohamed Sqalli, it built off of the inaugural workshop which took place earlier in November. Students continued to assess the energy levels of both themselves and other parties in order to better regulate emotions and ultimately provide more effective responses and legal counsel to future clients. They gained hands-on practice with active and intuitive listening and empathy in a legal clinic context through interactive group discussion and applied scenario role plays.

In one group role play, a man challenged his first wife on his decision to take a second. In court, the judge ruled in favor of the first wife who was opposed to her husband’s proposition. In another, a student sought advice about a missed exam, and her clinicians met her with a spirit of service. And in yet another, an international student needed answers about his legal status and consulted with three clinicians. While explaining his situation and concerns, one clinician exuded impatience while the other two demonstrated impeccable empathy and active listening skills. The latter were more successful in their ability to administer legal advice because they had gained access to more information and developed enhanced trust with their client.

During a group discussion about the project itself, HAF Project Manager Katie Bercegeay posed two simple questions to student participants: 1) What are your ideas for making the law clinic successful? and 2) What do you need from the student training program to feel confident in your ability to work in the clinic?

Students lit up with suggestions, ideas, and visions. Sleek marketing and communications planning, student business cards, relevant and vital partnerships, opportunities to learn from the experiences of students who have worked in other law clinics throughout Morocco and beyond, student-led expositions on their areas of expertise, training on computer literacy in a legal aid context, more mock interviews to help them practice giving empathetic, professional legal counsel, and team-building activities. It is the hope that from these ideas will come student-led working groups and a built-in team effort to collectively lead the law clinic to success.

Moving forward, students will be able to incorporate soft skills emphasized during the first two workshops into a more technical focus on family law and migration policy. Upcoming workshops will be conducted by university law faculty and policy experts from the Moroccan government and intergovernmental organizations. The next training will take place on Saturday, December 14 and will focus on Moroccan Family Law and Clinic Operations.
Click here to check out more photos from this project.

The High Atlas Foundation is working in partnership with the University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (USMBA) in Fes to establish a Law Clinic and Legal Aid program which actively engages students in experiential and service learning for the greater good of the local community. The project is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and aims “to foster greater cooperation among local civil society organizations and universities and promote service learning.”

Katie Bercegeay is a Project Manager with the High Atlas Foundation, an American-Moroccan nonprofit organization committed to sustainable development in Morocco. She is working with university partners in Fes to implement a pro bono law clinic to benefit marginalized persons.

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