Week 4: Let's Get Down to Business

Cue the Mulan Music...

This week, I want to provide you all with a more extensive update of what I have been working on at IBJ. As I mentioned previously, I have been working on various projects for the Myanmar office IBJ is opening up. One such project is writing the training manual for the Defense attorneys in Myanmar for the training that will be happening at the end of July. In addition, I have been organizing and planning the training for the end of July. Finally, I have been working on getting all of the employment contracts drafted and completed for the incoming staff in the Myanmar office.

Let’s begin with the training manual. During my first week at IBJ, I was asked to work on a project with Reeana where we would essentially be writing a manual that defense attorneys in Myanmar can use prior to, during, and post-trial. The manual will include various information such as client interview skills, trial skills, information on the bail process, and what the rights of the client as well as the attorney are. The manual will provide attorneys a reference that displays the various laws collectively in one place for ease and efficiency. The idea is that with this manual, defense attorneys will be able to point directly to an article or section of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Penal Code, Constitution, case law, etc. and say “this is my right” “this is my client’s right” and here is the applicable law backing me up. In order to complete such a manual, Reeana and I have been working with various attorneys in Myanmar as well as the United States who have been working on gathering this information for the past couple of years from the field or their own research as well as conducting our own research to compile it all into one document. We have completed a pretty large portion throughout the past couple of weeks and have been connected with an attorney in the US who will be traveling to Myanmar who has worked on this particular type of research for quite some time to put the finalized document together. In the next couple of weeks we will be combining what we have created thus far with what the attorney has created and will be filling in any blanks within this draft with the various research we have collected. Once we have a rough draft of the entire document that includes every piece and part, we will be editing the document and preparing it for publishing. We have until mid-July to complete the manual so the process will likely involve quite a few late nights and a lot of work but I cannot wait to see the finished product. It is very exciting to be a part of such an incredible project and to know that someday in Myanmar some attorney will be using this very document to assist their clients and change lives.

The manual will be passed out at the Training at the end of July which we expect to have around 120 attorneys participating in. This brings me to the next project we have been working on. Over the years IBJ has provided trainings such as this in many countries all over the world. These programs allow for attorneys to come together, share their knowledge, practice strategy and skills together and improve and learn from one another on how best to practice and represent their clients. Each training program needs to be tailored to the specific country and size of the group. Thus we have been working on planning the program and re-structuring the various activities to meet the needs of Myanmar. It is important that we schedule the correct amount of time for each session of each day and include the various materials the trainers will need to do the program. For the materials, we have been compiling PowerPoint presentations for the trainers with the information they will be teaching or working on as well as worksheets and various other materials needed for the personal or group reflective activities. In the next few weeks we will be making sure that each training attorney has what they need to complete their session as well as ensuring the materials have been ordered and the correct amount will be provided at the program. There has actually even been talk that Reeana and I may have the opportunity to attend the training and help with its implementation (if we can get the funding) which would be absolutely incredible! I have already learned so much throughout this process not only about Myanmar law but also about how the field of international law works and am learning a ton about the methods and strategies attorneys from across the globe are using to share their knowledge with one another to best represent their clients. This mentorship and knowledge sharing in the practice of law in general is something I am especially drawn to. I really hope we have the opportunity to attend this training and observe the interactions of these 100+ attorneys who all share a similar passion but each bring a unique background experience and culture to the room.

Finally, IBJ is in the process of opening a number of offices in Myanmar and with this comes the need for an entirely new staff. So for the past couple of weeks I have been drafting employment contracts for the various staff members at each of these offices. This experience has been really eye opening as well. The process itself has been a challenge as Myanmar employment law is quite different than US employment law or even than the laws of any of IBJ’s previous offices. In addition, once we completed the official drafts, we discovered that the language needed to be adjusted to better work for the translators. It can be difficult to translate some of the legal phrases you would see in an English contract into Burmese so we spent a number of days editing the language in a way that did not lose any of the legal context or legal implications but also was simplistic and active enough to be translated easily. I am actually really excited for my future writing classes because I feel as though I have finally gotten better at being able to say as much as possible in as few words as possible. I do believe this is a skill I will use for the rest of my career and this is such an interesting and unique way to learn that skill. It is an entirely different experience when you are forced to think strategically about every single word to ensure it can be translated properly but still makes sense and fully captures the essence of the phrase you are trying to communicate. Simplicity, active language, and being creative with the way you describe each clause is crucial. 

Overall, the work I am doing this summer has greatly challenged me to think outside the box, use creativity and critical thinking to solve problems, and most importantly, to further appreciate the power of diversity. I look forward to sharing with each of you the progress we make on the training program in the next few weeks.

As for my highs and lows of the week:

My low is that one of my best friends I’ve made here LAURA has left me to return to London (where all of my Geneva friends seem to go). Luckily, she will be returning in a few short weeks after she completes her program at King’s College but I am going to miss her very much during that time as we have gotten so close.

My high is that Reeana and I finally convinced the office to get a coffee pot! We had both been really missing our large cups of coffee in the morning and the smell of freshly brewed coffee (they mostly just drink espresso over here) and this was just what we needed!

Well, that’s it for now. Be sure to read along next week as Reeana and I travel to Germany and Austria!

Until next time,