Mimi Coffey never imagined spending two weeks in Ukraine would change her so much.
“It was a phenomenal experience,” she said, “one that has forever grown my heart.”
The Texas-based attorney traveled to Kyiv and Kharkiv in October to teach law students as part of an initiative sponsored by The Leavitt Institute for International Development (TLI).
Coffey, who has more than 20 years’ legal experience, spent two weeks introducing students to the American criminal justice system and other concepts vital to a healthy, vibrant democracy.
“These students are so hungry for knowledge about an adversarial system of justice where juries can actually determine justice,” Coffey said. “I can still see their faces. So many thanked me and asked me to come back.”
Coffey was one of more than 20 international legal professionals who traveled to Eastern Europe this semester to teach TLI classes. It was her first time doing so. The Institute partners with universities across Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine to teach students who want to change and improve their respective legal systems.
“It was clear that the students were eager to learn and very interested in helping to transition their country towards legal processes more in line with the other Western democracies,” said Paul Cassell, a Utah attorney and law professor who spent two weeks this semester teaching in Poland with his wife, Patricia Cassell.
The Cassells have been involved in teaching TLI courses since 2007.
“The Leavitt Institute made everything easy for my wife and me, even though the Polish program is a new one,” said Paul Cassell. “As we were returning home, we were both trying to figure out when we could next find time for another trip.”
TLI relies on the support of legal professionals around the world who donate their time and a modest financial contribution to travel to developing nations to promote democracy, ethics, and the rule of law among the next generation of lawyers, judges, and leaders.
“The law students and young lawyers I worked with are intelligent, dedicated and incredibly hopeful,” said Daniel Bay Gibbons, a former judge and current practicing attorney who traveled to Moldova and Ukraine for a two-week teaching stint.
Gibbons said one of the highlights of the trip came when he was at the National University in Odessa, Ukraine. He was unexpectedly invited to a ceremony with the University president and honored as a distinguished guest. Afterwards, he was interviewed by a local television station.
“At the end I was invited to give any words to the law students,” Gibbons said. He said he told them that they are the “Hope of Ukraine.”
Legal professionals who taught this semester praised TLI’s in-country staffers who worked to ensure they were taken care of during their entire two-week stay. Many professionals describe their experience in Eastern Europe as a highlight of their legal careers.
Said Mimi Coffey, “It was a remarkable experience I am so glad I took part of.”
If you are interested in teaching for TLI during the upcoming spring semester, please contact Jordan Teuscher at email@example.com.