Rule of Law from the Ground Up: Legal Curriculum Reform in Afghanistan

33 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020 Last revised: 8 Jul 2020

See all articles by Mehdi J. Hakimi

Mehdi J. Hakimi

Harvard University - Harvard Law School; Stanford Law School

Date Written: 2020


The rule of law, arguably the most cherished political ideal, remains elusive in many corners of the world. Since its formation in the mid-eighteenth century, Afghanistan has experienced episodes of “rule by law,” “rule of man,” and “rule of gun” much more so than the rule of law. This Article contributes to the literature by exploring the nexus between the rule of law and legal education in developing and transitional states. In particular, the Article examines the critical role of curriculum reform in bolstering the legal education system and, thereby, promoting a rule of law culture in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP) was established in 2007 to respond to the pressing curriculum challenge confronting Afghan law schools. Innovative curriculum initiatives like ALEP can serve as catalysts for meaningful rule of law reform by tackling foundational deficiencies in the legal education system. First, ALEP’s textbooks meet the urgent demand for updated and rigorous pedagogical resources to better understand Afghanistan’s rapidly evolving legal landscape. Second, the curriculum strengthens law students’ critical thinking and analytical skills (thinking like a lawyer). Third, ALEP’s publications emphasize practice skills (acting like a lawyer). Fourth, the materials encourage the students to engage in critical discussions of legal ethics and professionalism (being a lawyer). Finally, ALEP’s original work in legal education reform constitutes a long-term and cost-effective investment in building a robust legal profession and elevating trust in the justice system. By enhancing the capacities of future lawyers to fulfill their legal obligations, such pioneering initiatives can serve as an impetus for concerted efforts in cultivating a rule of law culture from the ground up in Afghanistan and other transitional societies.

Keywords: Afghanistan, Rule of Law, Afghan Law, Legal Education, Curriculum Reform, Legal Pluralism, Islamic Law, Shari’a, Customary Law, Comparative Law, Transnational Law, International Law, Legal Profession, Justice Reform, Informal Justice, Legal Reform, Law and Development

Suggested Citation

Hakimi, Mehdi J., Rule of Law from the Ground Up: Legal Curriculum Reform in Afghanistan (2020). California Law Review Online, Vol. 11, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Mehdi J. Hakimi (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Law School

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stanford Law School

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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