In July/August 2016 I participated in a four-week internship with the Samoa Law Reform Commission (SLRC). Apart from the obvious benefit of living and working in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, the SLRC internship program offered me unparalleled exposure to the excitements and challenges of working in law reform in a developing country.
My work varied considerably, ranging from controversial Illicit Drug Law to very practical Property Law and Civil Procedure Reform to the culturally divisive regulation of the fa’amatai (Samoan chiefly system). I worked alongside experienced locals and international volunteers who encouraged my interest in not only comparative law, but also Pacific culture and language.
Outside of substantive legal issues, I learnt about challenges unique to the Samoan experience, including lack of resources and up-to-date information, cultural sensitivities and delays caused by the much-loved “island time”. Cultural differences also proved valuable, however, as I became part of the “SLRC family”; meeting children, visiting newborns and even attending a wedding!
In all, the four weeks felt much longer (or maybe that was just the island time!). By the end of my stint, I felt personally connected with the country and the SLRC staff and work. My experiences have no doubt enhanced my skills as a legal student and practitioner and given me a much better understanding of working in a country very different to my own. I will always remember my time in Samoa fondly and I look forward to my return.