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Latin American Experiential Project (LaELP)
The Latin American Experiential Project (LaELP) is a joint initiative of the Lawyering in Spanish Program (LIS) and the Spanish Speaking Lawyers Association (SSLS). LaELP was established for the purpose of educating DU law school students about the different legal system and cultures in Latin America through valuable hands-on experiences.
The first three fellows traveled to Lima, Peru, for two weeks to observe the criminal trial of ex-President Alberto Fujimori. While in Lima, the delegation interviewed the panel of special court judges, the prosecutor, several of the civil parties´ attorneys, family members of the victims of two massacres, and human rights activists. The students connected these experiences to their education at the Sturm College of Law through numbers projects, including a letter writing campaign and lunch presentation.
Additionally, the first delegation visited five large law firms where they interviewed partners, young associates, and interns about the legal education and internship system in Peru. The interviews were videotaped and are currently being edited for the use of Sturm College of Law professors.
What is LaELP?
LaELP is a grass roots program that encourages student creativity while learning about legal issues in Latin America. LaELP offers valuable experience for Sturm College of Law students who speak Spanish and who wish to integrate their language skills into their legal careers.
LaELP fellows develop a project concerning a legal issue in Latin America. Then, a board of students and faculty members select one project a year to receive funding. Additionally, LaELP will work closely with the fellows, providing them with contacts within the Lawyering in Spanish Program (LIS) network and the support that is necessary to facilitate their project. The LaELP fellows will be expected to conduct the project during the school year (either over Winter or Spring Break). They are also expected to represent the results of their project to fellow students as well as the Denver legal community. This can be accomplished through an informative lunch, the filming of a video, recording interviews, writing a paper, exhibiting photographs, etc.
The Value of Experiential Learning
While class work is essential for a good legal education, many skills must be learned through personal experience. The best way for a student to understand Latin American culture and the civil law system is to experience them first hand. For students who wish to work overseas, practice as an international lawyer, establish a legal network with contacts in Latin America, or use their second language skills on a professional level, there is no substitute for experiential learning.
LaELP fellows are responsible for choosing a topic, writing a proposal, and organizing the details of the project. They are therefore provided an opportunity to be proactive in defining the scope and direction of their legal career. Additionally, the DU community benefits from the fellows´ knowledge and experience when LaELP fellows present the results of their project.
Applications for 2009-2010 fellows are forthcoming.