Using Partnership, Lawyers Without Borders Brings e-Learning to Africa

Topics: Access to Justice, Artificial Intelligence, Efficiency, Government, Justice Ecosystem, Leadership, Legal Education, Legal Innovation, Thomson Reuters

A new article on Thomson Reuters’ Answers On website details how Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) used a partnership to bring e-learning tools to Africa to solve a dire problem during the Ebola crisis.

The article shows how, until the summer of 2014, the legal non-profit organization had spent years in East and West Africa helping local lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officers grapple with the complexities of prosecuting such high-profile crimes as human trafficking, wildlife poaching, electoral violence, and terrorism. Using printed pamphlets, booklets, newsletters, and textbooks, LWOB’s training programs typically took place in a classroom where the teaching involved everything from evidence collection and chain-of-custody procedures to case preparation and prosecution strategies for the courtroom.

In Liberia, for example, hundreds of the country’s legal professionals participated in the training sessions. Then one day, everything came to a screaming halt. The reason: Ebola.

The article talks about how the government was shutting down the borders and setting up quarantine zones. Schools were closed. The Ebola virus was spreading, and no one knew when it was going to stop. “Even when travel into and out of the country eased, there were severe restrictions on public gatherings, there would be no shaking hands, gatherings had to be small and regular hand cleansing with disinfectant was mandatory,” recalls Christina Storm, the founder of LWOB.

lawyers without borders

“Historically in Liberia, we used old-fashioned print materials because in many of the places we work, people don’t have access to computers or the internet, or even in some locales, electricity,” Storm says. “It quickly became apparent that print materials distributed by hand were no longer going to work. We faced a grant deadline and had no way to deliver.”

The Search for a Solution

The article goes on to describe that until that point, Thomson Reuters had been helping LWOB defray the high cost of printing by offering to publish the organization’s training materials for free. When the Ebola virus struck, however, Storm made a call to Sharon Sayles Belton, Thomson Reuters’ vice president of community relations and government affairs, and explained the situation.

“It was awful,” Sayles-Belton recalls. “People didn’t want to gather in groups. They were reluctant to travel, and they didn’t want to be in the company of others.”

The solution wasn’t immediately obvious, but Sayles-Belton and Joseph Kubes, director of Strategic Alliances at Thomson Reuters, called a meeting to discuss how the company might be able to help. “That’s when we started thinking that we needed to identify and develop a new delivery model,” says Sayles-Belton. “Since people wouldn’t gather in groups, we started talking about shifting from an in-person model to an e-learning model.”

You can read the full article on the Thomson Reuters Answers On website to learn how Lawyers Without Borders was able to enlist a partner to find the e-learning solutions to its problem in Africa.