A New Generation of Lawyers: Building Litigation Skills under Mexico’s New Accusatory Criminal Justice System

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Merida Initiative

The “Nueva Generación de Abogados” video series highlights the experiences of two teams of university students from the Law Faculty of the University of Guanajuato and from the Colegio Jurista, Morelos who travelled to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2016 to compete in the “Championship of Champions”, moot court competition. The seven students who made up the two teams triumphed over similar teams from over 200 other law schools across Mexico.

Under the Mérida Initiative, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has funded programs to develop oral advocacy skills amongst university professors and students since 2011, through workshops and moot court competitions. Since 2015, these programs have been implemented by two grantees, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABAROLI) and the California Western School of Law (CWSL), who run parallel moot court competitions alongside workshops in oral litigation, and help the teams from participating universities prepare for moot court competitions. Following several rounds of regional competitions ABAROLI and CWSL each host a national competition for the participating teams, traditionally held in Mexico City and in Tijuana respectively. The culmination of the annual program takes place in Washington, D.C., where the winners of the two national competitions square off in a grand finale. Following the “Championship of Champions”, the teams spend a week visiting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Supreme Court of United States, among others.

In 2016, ABAROLI also introduced training in alternative justice mechanisms and hosted the First National Mediation Competition. The University of Guadalajara won the first championship, beating 15 other teams from 14 universities. The winners joined a study tour to New York and Washington, D.C., where they visited the Red Hook Community Justice Center, the University of Columbia, the Mediation Clinic, the United Nations, the Capitol, The World Bank and the U.S. Supreme Court, among others.

The program is growing in popularity and impact. In 2017, nearly 400 law schools from across Mexico will participate in the moot court competitions and workshops, up from just over 200 in 2016. Additionally, in 2017 the programs will also incorporate the Second National Mediation Competition and job search coaching. As the 2016 winners attest in the “Nueva Generación de Abogados” video series, participating in the program has opened up professional opportunities and given them confidence to successfully prosecute and defend a criminal case in Mexico’s new criminal justice system.

In addition to the moot court competitions and oral advocacy workshops, INL also supports the Oral Adversarial Skills Immersion Seminar for the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). This comprises litigation workshops for law professors and students attending UNAM’s Law School and culminates in a moot court competition. The winners of the 2016 competition joined study tours to San Diego, Boston and San Francisco, which included sessions on the American legal system, trial preparation and debriefing, as well as meetings with judges, prosecutors and other members of the judiciary

For more information, please write to meridainitiativeinfo@state.gov.