For most Malawians, the government Legal Aid Department presents the only opportunity for legal representation or even sound legal advice. It has always been chronically under-resourced and under-staffed. It is where Nick was working as a volunteer when he died. Malawian lawyers train through a degree programme at the Chancellor College, which is part of the University of Malawi. Our projects to improve access to justice in Malawi centre on the Legal Aid Department and the degree programme at Chancellor College.
Law Scholarship Programme
From 2005 to 2014, we provided scholarships for highly motivated law students that covered fees and maintenance for the full four years of the degree programme on condition that recipients were employed by the Legal Aid Department as interns in the vacations and full-time for three years after graduation. Over that time, we sponsored 5 students through their law degrees. One recipient is due to graduate this summer. Of our two graduates currently working at the Legal Aid Department, one has been promoted to the position of Senior Advocate. Of the two who have moved on, one is now working for the Malawian government.
We are currently working on a new scheme to improve the contribution we make to access to justice in Malawi through the Legal Aid Department.
Legal Aid Library
We have provided the Legal Aid Department offices in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, with a well stocked law library. We provided the furniture and a computer. We sourced and shipped hundreds of relevant books and instructional DVDs, mostly donated by English law firms and colleges.
At the opening ceremony in August 2007, the library was unique in the country. The Malawian Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs described it as “a noble contribution” that “will go a long way towards making access to justice a meaningful concept to the majority of our citizens”. Bill Clinton praised our library in his 2007 book, Giving.
Since then, another organisation has donated a substantial library to the Malawi Law Society offices in Blantyre. We are very pleased that the legal profession in Malawi is now much better resourced than it was when we began our work.
Chancellor College Library
The library at Chancellor College, where all Malawian lawyers train, was significantly understocked. We continued our programme of improving legal resources in Malawi by providing this library with multiple copies of books used on their degree programmes. They have recently partnered with another charity, and have confirmed that they no longer need further donations.