Clinical Education

Legal Clinics bridge the gap between legal theory and legal practice. Clinics are designed to give students an understanding of what it takes to practice as a competent lawyer. Just as importantly, they are designed to give students a realistic self-awareness about their own role as actors in the justice system.

Visioning-workshop-with-the-Drachukha-Farmers-Group-in-Punakha

During their eighth and ninth semesters of their studies, JSW Law students enroll in one of JSW Law’s three clinics. Students split their time between a rigorous skills-based seminar and real-world legal work on behalf of clients and partner organizations. Students are supervised by practitioner-scholars, and benefit from a reflective experience focusing on the ethics, practice, and strategies of legal work.

The legal clinics at JSW Law are designed to inculcate in students a robust sense of professional ethics and service, and an understanding of what it means to practice law in a Bhutanese GNH context. By design, most clinics worldwide are designed to have some sort of beneficial social impact. At JSW Law, each of the three clinics’ substantive focuses were vetted using the Gross National Happiness Commission’s Policy Screening Tool, thus ensuring that the clinics’ work contributes broadly to Bhutan’s holistic approach to national development. Clinics are also designed to sharpen students’ skills, and JSW Law students are encouraged to select the clinic they feel is most relevant to their own preferred field of practice.

JSW Law’s clinical program strives to: (1) ensure reflective, rigorous, and hands-on training for the JSW Law students; (2) provide needed legal services at the highest professional standards to deserving clients and partners in the Paro and Thimphu Valleys and beyond; and (3) to generate and share academic and policy-oriented insights emerging from the clinic’s work to audiences in Bhutan and beyond.

Clinics at JSW Law

Law Clinics are of relevance to students whether they intend to be practitioners, scholars, private lawyers, civil servants, corporate attorneys, or public interest activists. The skills that students acquire are applicable to any kind of lawyering.

During their fourth year, all JSW Law students must enroll in one of three clinics:

(1) the Appropriate Dispute Resolution Clinic (ADRC), which focuses on Bhutan’s traditional dispute resolution practices, mediation, consensus building, and dispute systems design;

(2) the Entrepreneurialism Clinic (EC), which develops students’ capacity to advise and facilitate small business entrepreneurs as they develop effective and sustainable business models in Bhutan; 

(3) the Human Dignity Clinic (HDC), which provides support and legal advice to individuals and communities in Bhutan whose ability to live with dignity has been compromised in some way;

 

Clinical Faculty and Staff

Stephan Sonnenberg

Associate Dean for Clinical & Experiential Education

Director, Appropriate Dispute Resolution Clinic

Assistant Professor of Law

Email: stephan.sonnenberg@jswlaw.bt

Stephan Sonnenberg joined JSW Law in 2015. Stephan specializes in human rights, humanitarian law, conflict resolution, and international development collaboration. He previously served on the clinical faculties of both Harvard Law School and Stanford Law School, supervising over 35 clinical projects in the United States, Asia, Africa and Europe. He is licensed to practice law in Massachusetts, California, and England & Wales. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Brown University (USA), a Masters in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University (USA), a Cycle Internationale d’Études Politiques from Sciences-Po Paris (France), and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School (USA). He lives in Thimphu with his wife and two children.

Stephan is also one of two Principal Investigators (PIs) running << JSW Law’s Legal Needs Assessment >> – a 20 Dzongkhag study employing an ethnographically-inspired methodology to assess the contours of “justice” in Bhutan. Stephan has published numerous articles on ADR, Human Rights, and Development.

Dema Lham

Director, Human Dignity Clinic

Senior Lecturer

dema.lham@jswlaw.bt

Dema Lham joined JSW Law/RIL in 2015 as faculty. Before joining RIL, she worked as a senior Legislative Officer at the National Assembly Secretariat. She received her BLS., LLB Degree from Government Law College, Mumbai University, India, in 2006 and her Postgraduate Diploma in National Law (PGDNL) from the Royal Institute of Management, Thimphu, in 2007. Dema received her Master of Laws in Criminal Law at the University of New South Wales (Australia) in June 2017.

 

Adrian von Bernstorff

Director of the Entrepreneurialism Clinic

Senior Lecturer
Email: adrian.von.bernstorff@jswlaw.bt

Adrian von Bernstorff joined JSW as Adjunct Research Associate in the autumn of 2017. He is now the Director of the Entrepreneurialism Clinic. He completed his first Judicial Examination from the University of Hamburg and his second Judicial Examination from the Department of Justice, Lower Saxony, Germany. Adrian worked as a Lawyer at the law firm Becker Büttner Held in Berlin, specializing in Renewable Energies. In 2013, he and his wife moved to Bhutan, where he co-founded a food business and helped with the establishment of a progressive Farmers Cooperative.

Kuenzang Dolma

ADR Clinical faculty

Junior Lecturer

Email: kuenzang.dolma@jswlaw.bt

Kuenzang Dolma was appointed in 2018 as a Junior Lecturer for Property Law at JSW Law. She received her LL.B. in 2012 from Indian Law Society’s Law College, Pune University, in Maharashtra, India. Kuenzang completed her Post Graduate Diploma in National Law (PGDNL) from the Royal Institute of Management in 2013, and is currently pursuing an LLM in Dispute Resolution at the Law School of Missouri University in Colombia, MO in the United States. Prior to joining JSW Law she served as a Legal Officer at the Wangdue-Phodrang and Paro Dzongkhag (District) Administrations. Kuenzang is originally from Shaba in Paro Dzongkhag, and has a young son.

Rinchen Dema

Faculty Secretary

Email: rinchen.dem@jswlaw.bt

Rinchen Dema joined JSW Law in 2017 as a Faculty Secretary. She also serves as the Law Clinics senior legal assistant. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Dzongkha and English from Sherubtse College, in Kanglung, in 2014. Prior to joining JSW Law, she served as a teacher and Library In-Charge at Dr. Tobgyel School and served as an Assistant Research Officer in the National Assembly of Bhutan. Rinchen Dema is from Rangthangling in Tsirang Dzongkhang and currently lives in Thimphu.

Since 2018, Rinchen Dema has also been serving as the Research Officer for << JSW Law’s Legal Needs Assessment >> – a 20 Dzongkhag study employing an ethnographically-inspired methodology to assess the contours of “justice” in Bhutan.

Clinical Projects

Since the opening of JSW Law in summer 2017, the clinics at JSW Law have undertaken a number of projects on behalf of clients in Bhutan.  These include:=

RENEW Consensus Building Initiative

The first clinic project was an effort to develop a new procedure to resolve certain types of domestic violence cases. RENEW approached JSW Law’s clinic in 2017 to join a multi-stakeholder discussion about how to improve the capacity of its community based domestic violence support service volunteers to intervene and help resolve cases of domestic violence and other forms of abuse in Bhutanese communities.  

After initial consultation, RENEW asked the Clinic to work with concerned stakeholders involved in the prevention and response to domestic violence in Bhutan to develop a process which later became known as the “consensus building process” (CBP). Using this hybrid dispute resolution process, RENEW’s community-based domestic violence support service volunteers serve as “gender-informed” problem solvers, liaising directly with the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) as well as with local government officials or other actors authorized to write up binding agreements. The CBP is appropriate only for certain carefully-defined types of domestic violence that are more appropriately addressed via a gender-informed consensus building effort than they would be in a formal (criminal) context, and proceeds strictly in line with provisions in Bhutan’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2013.

Once the original stakeholder group agreed on the basic contours and legalities of the CBP, RENEW asked JSW Law’s ADRC to help roll-out the Consensus Building Process on a nationwide scale. In line with this request, JSW Law’s legal clinic, working in close partnership with RENEW, delivered the following services to the community:

  • The Clinic facilitated a 6-day training in Paro Dzongkhag with some of RENEW’s more active volunteers to reality-test the proposed CBP;
  • The Clinic helped negotiate the terms of an MoU between RENEW and the RBP to formalize the referral procedures between RBP Officers and RENEW volunteers;
  • The Clinic developed the content for a 2-day capacity building training for RBP officers about the CBP, focusing on their crucial role as part of that process;
  • The Clinic ceveloped the content for a 5-day capacity building training for RENEW’s community based volunteers intending to serve as consensus builders;
  • The Clinic produced a detailed Facilitators’ Manual for RENEW staff who would in the future assume the responsibility for the delivery of the above-mentioned 2-day and 5-day trainings to the RBP and RENEW’s community based volunteers.
  • The Clinic, jointly with RENEW staff, facilitated the 2-day training to a total of 100 RBP Officiating Commanders (OCs), from across Bhutan, to raise awareness about the CBP;
  • The Clinic held a Train-the-Trainer (ToT) workshop for RENEW staff persons, using the Facilitators’ Manual as the baseline, to prepare them to deliver the 5-day CBP Training to an initial batch of community based volunteers;
  • The clinic supported RENEW staff as it delivered the first of many trainings to its community based volunteers and local government officials in Haa Dzongkhag (District).

In May of 2019, the ADRC successfully handed off this project to RENEW.  At the time of publication, the project has already generated interest internationally, and was featured prominently as a notable “better practice” in a High Level Group report published in 2019 (UN Women, IDLO, World Bank and Task Force on Justice (March, 2019) “Justice for Women: High-Level Group Report,” available at: https://www.idlo.int/publications/justice-women-high-level-group-report). 

DrukMetho Farmers Group

In 2017, JSW Law was approached by a young entrepreneur with an idea to grow organic edible flowers for export to Switzerland, where a Swiss company had expressed an interest in these products for use in high-value ornamental food products.

Two members of the Drachukha Farmers Group gathering their first harvest.

After initial debates over whether this business should be structured as a farmers’ cooperative or using a more traditional corporate model, the clinic proposed instead a new process designed to educate and empower the Drachukha farmers group itself to decide how best to structure its relationship with other stakeholders. This process, which concluded in April of 2019, resulted in a unique profit-sharing model between two separate corporate entities, the first being the farmers group (which grows the flowers) and the second DrukMetho (which processes and markets the final product, both domestically as well as internationally). The benefits of this profit-sharing model are apparent, in that the incentives of both DrukMetho as well as the Farmers Group are aligned, and the profits generated by DrukMetho flow directly to the community—not as charity or as a form of “corporate social responsibility,” but rather as a joint payoff for joint efforts. 

The clinic’s partnership with DrukMetho has resulted in:

  • Various consultations with the key stakeholders of DrukMetho and the Drachukha Farmers’ Group regarding their business model, including a 2-day workshop convened in Punakha to finalize the model;
  • Legal support to DrukMetho to incorporate;
  • Legal support to the Drachukha Farmers’ Group to incorporate;
  • Legal support to DrukMetho to develop a relationship with Swiss Alpine Herbs;
  • Crowdsourcing support to DrukMetho to secure crucial startup capital;
  • Support to DrukMetho for a series of requests to potential donors and investors;
  • Creation of advocacy films to promote DrukMetho story & business model

 

Thangkha Conservation Project

In early 2018, BARRC, for “Bhutan Art Restitution & Reclamation Committee”, a unit under Bhutan Art and Culture Conservation Centre (BACCC) approached the Clinic to propose a long-term collaboration focused on the return of stolen and lost cultural artefacts to Bhutan. The preservation of Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage constitutes part of Bhutan’s determination to ensure respect for human dignity across Bhutan.

The specific case that prompted BARRC to contact JSW Law involved an effort to retrieve two Thangkas (a silk applique and embroidered Thangka of Ushnihvijaya, and a large Thangka of Avalokiteshvara Shadakshari) that were stolen from Phajoding Monastery. Thangkas are Buddhist scroll paintings on cloth. In 1972, 40 sacred and priceless Thangkas considered to be a part of Bhutan’s national heritage was stolen from the main Altar of the monastery. The Royal Government of Bhutan has been trying to retrieve these Thangkas ever since.

In 2017, two of those 40 stolen Thangkas were identified at an auction house in Hong Kong. Upon a request by BARRC to halt their sale, the auction house requested formal documentation proving that the Thangkas were, in fact, stolen artefacts from Bhutan. After submission of the requested documents, the two Thangkas were indeed removed from the auction. The Human Dignity Clinic (HDC) is currently working with the BARRC to analyze the strengths and weaknesses associated with various potential strategies for securing the return of these two Thangkas, which constitute an important part of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. The details of those efforts are confidential and ongoing.

To contact any of the clinics, or to explore a potential partnership with one of JSW Law’s << 3 Legal Clinics >>, please contact JSW Law’s Associate Dean for the Clinics, Mr. << Stephan Sonnenberg >>.