Respect for the rule of law and its principles are of the utmost importance in safeguarding the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession. This is fundamental for establishing a reliable and credible judicial system that will have the required legitimacy for its effective operation. Lawyers are perfectly positioned to play a vital role in upholding the rule of law and human rights, as their skills and influence within society can help in establishing and maintaining democracies and in building prosperous economies.
Our international rule of law programmes are designed so that we can respond in a more strategic, structured, and consistent manner to the needs of our members and the requests for assistance by law societies, lawyers, foreign bars, and judges.
The international rule of law programmes consists of five sub-programmes: Lawyers at Risk, Capacity Building, International Women in Law, Governance (Anti-corruption), and Business and Human Rights.
The Law Society has been granted special consultative status to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations since March 2014. We make use of our ECOSOC consultative status to organise side events, make oral statements before the UN Human Rights Council, and make submissions to the UN treaty bodies, UN Human Rights Council, UN Special Rapporteurs, UN Commission on the Status of Women among others.
We work in partnership with a network of other law societies, bar associations, lawyers, judges, NGOs, academics, international institutions and other relevant stakeholders to deliver projects overseas. These aim to promote and protect human rights, build legal capacity, support the rule of law, and encourage economic development.
The Lawyers at Risk programme
This programme supports lawyers who are hindered - either through threats, intimidation, unsubstantiated disciplinary measures, disappearances, or murder - in carrying out their professional duties. This support is provided through intervention letters sent to state authorities concerning specific cases, but also through substantive policy work to address the structural causes that give rise to such threats.
All interventions and follow-up actions are included in our annual Intervention Tracker. This tracker compiles the data and allows for analysis regarding, for example, regional trends of intimidation and the identification of places where the independence of the legal profession is particularly threatened.
Our Lawyers at Risk programme supports human rights defenders (HRDs) who exercise the functions of lawyers and/or legal assistants. We further support those lawyers who have lost their license to practise, have been disbarred, or have not been admitted to the Bar for reasons other than proven misconduct.
The Capacity Building programme
This programme aims to support, develop, and facilitate academic, practical, and professional opportunities for law societies, bar associations, lawyers and judges to enable them to maximise their individual and collective capabilities. NGOs and civil society organisations, working mainly in the provision of legal assistance, are also considered as potential participants.
We design bespoke training programmes that facilitate the transfer of technical expertise and knowledge from England and Wales to other jurisdictions, supporting a continuous process of professional development, as well as promoting new skills and innovation. An essential part of this programme is the interactive dialogue between representatives from different jurisdictions and Law Society members.
The International Women and the Law programme
This programme seeks to increase and actively support efforts to achieve gender equality within the legal profession and the judiciary, creating solidarity linkages and collaborative projects around the world. Its strategy is to promote greater participation and leadership of women within the sector and generate best practices that can be shared with others.
We also aim to challenge and confront unconscious bias within the legal profession by breaking down women’s invisibility and highlighting female role models in senior positions. Moreover, we aim to create more opportunities for women by facilitating discussions through international roundtables, creating opportunities for exchanges, developing best practice toolkits, and providing education and training opportunities, including mentoring and coaching.