UCL Consultants Ltd


UCL supports Argentinian lawyers and judges to adapt to the country’s legal reforms

Experts from UCL Laws and The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple have been helping law professionals in Argentina to learn oral advocacy skills, in response to key changes in the legal system.

Lady Justice brass statue, books in the background

19 February 2024

A significant shift is happening in the legal system in Argentina, as it moves from inquisitorial to adversarial trials. While the inquisitorial process involves mainly written court procedures, in the adversarial system two opposing advocates argue their clients’ cases orally in court before a judge or jury. These reforms are widely seen as helping to improve people’s access to justice, making the court process more transparent and giving individuals better participation in the legal process. Although this is a positive move forwards, law students, lawyers and judges in Argentina are trained in the inquisitorial process, so most lack skills in oral advocacy, and related legal ethics and judicial case management skills.

Recognising that support was needed to enable law professionals to work in this new context, Argentina has been looking towards the British legal system. Professor Cheryl Thomas, Director of the UCL Judicial Institute and UCL Jury Project, heard about the situation in Argentina on a visit to the country in 2019. She was there on a British Council Higher Education Links grant at the request of a former UCL Laws Masters student Federico Thea, then the Chancellor of the National University of José C. Paz (UNPAZ). Following meetings with a number of stakeholders from the legal field, including Martin Bohmer, then the National Director in the Ministry of Justice with responsibility for legal education and training, Professor Thomas was asked to help with the retraining process necessary for lawyers and judges to be effective in the new legal system. The goal was to train a core group of individuals in Argentina on how to teach oral advocacy and legal ethics skills. In turn, this would enable them to create their own training programme, and cascade these new skills throughout law schools and the legal profession in the country.

At the time, Professor Thomas was about to embark on a secondment as Dean of Inner Temple – one of the four ancient Inns of Court where barristers are trained in England and Wales. Given her expertise, legal network and the ability of the UCL Judicial Institute to convene a team of internationally-recognised adversarial skills trainers, a collaboration commenced. Funding, administrative and in-kind support was received from Advocates for International Development’s (A4ID) Rule of Law UK Programme (ROLE UK), which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The project also benefited from UCL’s Policy Support Fund from Research England, and had numerous partners including the British Embassy in Buenos Aires and Inner Temple. Planned through UCL Consultants and with funding through UCL’s Policy Support Fund from Research England, this project is making a positive impact on the oral advocacy, legal ethics and case management skills of law professionals in Argentina.

Training professionals to cascade knowledge

The first phase of the project was a ‘train the trainers’ course in oral advocacy, delivered online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This was followed by an in-person training course in Buenos Aires in May 2023. The UCL Judicial Institute was able to put together a team of highly experienced advocates to deliver the training, including Her Excellency Judge Joanna Korner CMG KC from the International Criminal Court, Upper Tribunal Judge Jill Frances, senior barrister Grahame Aldous KC of Deka Chambers and Scott Matthewson of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers. The goal of the training is ultimately to enable Argentina to create its own training programmes suitable for its new adversarial-focused legal system. 

We want to provide the knowledge and skills about how to train people in oral advocacy and legal ethics, so they can create their own skills training programme in Argentina. We’re not there to tell them what their adversarial system should look like. We’re there to show them how we train our barristers and judges, and ask how we can support the creation of their own skills programme and their own version of the adversarial system. By training some legal professionals in Argentina to be trainers, and by enabling them to develop and evaluate their own training programme, we hope this knowledge will be cascaded throughout the 30 law schools in Argentina and beyond.”
- Professor Thomas

In Argentina, an individual can begin practicing law as soon as they receive their undergraduate law degree and there is no requirement for continuing professional development, so the training provided in law schools is crucial to ensure the success of the legal reforms in the country. Argentina looked towards Britain for support in particular because the legal traditions and experience in England and Wales is especially relevant for the Argentinian context. A key aspect of the training is the Hampel method, which is used in England and Wales to develop oral advocacy skills. The method involves training in a simulated courtroom environment, with highly experienced practitioners as the advocacy trainers. One Argentine participant said: “The training has been top notch. Those of us who are dedicated to teaching oral litigation are not used to using a method that orders us to detect problems, give an account of the reasons why that is a problem, show how it could be solved, and give an example of it. The Hampel method allows us not only to rethink the quality of the litigation to which we aspire, but also to put ourselves as teachers in a position to realise that it is possible to improve.”

As a result of the in-country training, 12 lawyers, prosecutors, judges and law professors are being trained to be advocacy and legal ethics trainers. This group will become the main advocacy training group, who will cascade these skills throughout the legal profession and  law schools in Argentina.

Strengthening oral advocacy in Argentina and across Latin America

Following this work, the UK team has been invited to deliver further training in Argentina to continue to support capacity building. As a federal country, different provinces in Argentina are adopting the adversarial model at varying rates. As they do so, the UK team is providing further support. The move towards an adversarial system is happening in other Latin American countries too, including Brazil, Chile and Mexico, and representatives from these countries will also be observing the next training sessions. 

Such a radical shift in our legal processes and professional roles demanded radical new ways of training, so to have a tried and tested pedagogic method for training legal professionals in the adversarial process and such an impressive group of internationally qualified trainers has given our Argentine group of lawyers, judges and law professors a huge boost in confidence and enthusiasm to become advocacy and ethics trainers themselves. With the support of the UCL Judicial Institute and Inner Temple we’ve now created an Adversarial Skills Training Committee in Argentina, and we are already receiving requests from more judges and prosecutors to be trained as soon as possible.”
Martin Bohmer, then the government director responsible for legal education in Argentina, and now the Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Buenos Aires.

As a unique and complex project with much of the training being delivered by lawyers pro bono – another British legal tradition – ensuring there was oversight and accountability for the work was crucial. 

For me, it was hugely important that there was oversight on the project and an agreement on the role of each partner. UCL Consultants was able to do this – the project honestly wouldn’t have happened without them. They formalised the work through a statement of involvement and liaised with all partners to sign it. It provided a firm basis for the work, which was greatly appreciated by the many high profile partners involved.”
- Professor Thomas


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