Leading legal services provider, LexisNexis, has joined forces with Colin Biggers & Paisley Foundation to test a new initiative, The Juris Pilot, to connect legal professionals with legal bodies in developing countries for pro bono opportunities that advance the rule of law.

Myanmar was chosen as the launch pad for the initiative due to the ongoing rule of law work of LexisNexis in the country. In addition, the lifting of economic sanctions against the newly democratic country have created a number of opportunities but also legal uncertainty as the judiciary struggles to keep pace with the rapid expansion of the country’s economy.

Veronica Rios, Executive Manager, Rule of Law, LexisNexis Asia Pacific, explains: “As democracy has been introduced to Myanmar, the legal professionals acting on behalf of the government have been faced with new challenges of negotiating contracts with other countries – an area of law that was previously largely unused.”

Charles Brannen, special counsel at Colin Biggers & Paisley (Australia), Matthew Rickards, partner at Ashurst (Japan), and Guillaume Stafford, senior associate at Herbert Smith Freehills (currently on secondment in Myanmar) were led by Ms Rios and joined with local lawyer Minn Naing Oo, managing director at Allen & Gledhill (Myanmar) Co.

“We’ve been able to leverage our skills and resources to support a truly useful and significant initiative with LexisNexis and the Union Attorney General’s Office in Myanmar,” Mr Brannen comments on the importance of the program to both the individuals and Myanmar as a nation.

“By bringing together other experts from large law firms in Australia and around the world, we have been able to collaborate and share ideas, whilst helping to further expand the legal knowledge and skills of a key group of local legal professionals who are representing the newly emerging Myanmar government. It’s a critical period for Myanmar as a relatively new player to the international arena whilst experiencing rapid progress by the influx of foreign investors.”

Using LexisNexis research materials, three lawyers built a curriculum to conduct intensive training over two days in April (27-28) on international contract law to more than 50 public prosecutors from the Union Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) and other government ministries including the Department of Energy, Construction and the Auditor General at the offices of the Attorney General in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.

One of the key objectives set out by the UAGO, according to their five-year strategic plan, is to improve the legal advice they provided to the Government. The plan recognises that “To advance the rule of law, the Government at all levels must adhere to the legal framework. This requires better trained legal advisors with specialised expertise.”

This initiative builds on the existing LexisNexis Myanmar Law School Programme, where in 2015 LexisNexis partnered with the Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), to provide online legal research solutions and training for Myanmar’s Yangon Law School and Mandalay Law School. In addition, after the devastation of Typhoon Nargis in 2016, LexisNexis partnered with the Philippine Group of Law Librarians (PGLL) to facilitate a trip to restore the damaged Yangon Law School.

The efforts of LexisNexis to advance the rule of law in Myanmar were originally noted and commended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (in 2014), whose Special Advisor to the country, Ambassador Vijay Nambiar, had been facilitating engagement for LexisNexis with UN agencies working in the country, to ensure a structured approach to legal aid. From this, the inaugural “Business for the Rule of Law” Consultative Workshop with the United Nations Global Compact was run by LexisNexis in Yangon, inviting the business community to discuss challenges they face in the country and ways in which the business community can strengthen the rule of law in Myanmar.

Find out more about LexisNexis and its rule of law commitment.