UA Faculty Join Effort to Collect Books for Law Schools in Kenya

UA Faculty Join Effort to Collect Books for Law Schools in Kenya

By La Monica Everett-HaynesUniversity Communications
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Suzanne Rabe
Suzanne Rabe

Suzanne Rabe, along with other law professors, helped turn a conference visit to Africa into a national effort to collect books for law school libraries in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

Rabe, an associate clinical professor at The University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, attended the Conference on the Pedagogy of Legal Writing in Nairobi last year. The conference was sponsored by the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute, two national legal writing organizations of which Rabe is a member.

While there, she and others who attended the conference received a tour of Kenyan law schools and were shocked to discover that most had a small sampling of legal textbooks, many of which were decades out of date.

“This was in Nairobi, which is one of the great centers of African commerce,” Rabe said, adding that Nairobi and Johannesburg, South Africa, are among the two most economically vibrant cities in Africa.

Libraries in these cities, as in any society or community, are critical resources for law schools. Unlike books on general studies, books in law libraries must be specialized and current.

Recognizing the need, a group of legal professionals formed Academics Promoting the Pedagogy of Effective Advocacy in Law, or APPEAL, and, as part of one of its initiatives, began collecting books for law schools in Africa. The organization also supports exchange programs and raises funds to imcrease the number of Africans who are able to be engaged with professionals from the United States.

APPEAL partnered with the Washington state-based Boeing Co. and sent out a nationwide request to aid in the collection of books to be sent to various countries in Africa. Rabe took up the charge at the UA earlier this month and urged faculty in her college to donate their used and duplicate law books.

“My legal writing colleagues and I were struck by the weak library resources,” Rabe wrote to her colleagues.

“In a large state law school, the library would often be one small room with only a few bookshelves,” she added. “Many of the books were decades old, and most were only tangentially law related. Many law classes offer only one text, which is shared by the professor and all the students. In some instances, the professors teach with no books at all.”

All told, she received about 120 pounds in books – nearly 75 texts – about torts, civil procedures, trials, pretrial litigation, children in the law, domestic violence and other topics.

Kenya, like the United States, operates under a common law system – which means the law is built upon cases. The legal system in Kenya is also growing and developing, so the books – even though they may not detail the history of law in Kenya – will be helpful to the African legal scholars, she said.

Rabe and the others had at first planned to mail the books directly to Kenya, but it would have been far too expensive, she said.

Rabe, also director of legal writing in the college, paid out of pocket to send the books to Seattle earlier this month. Boeing, the partner in the project, will ship them to Africa.

“It’s an exciting initiative, and our law school is just one contributing piece,” Rabe said. “We will do it again next year.”

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