Experienced attorneys: Would you go abroad to spread democracy?

Since 2006, Burton Rands Associates LLC has been working to provide various locations worldwide with legal advice. In fact, the U.S. Department of State has contracted with Burton Rands Associates to assure the spread of democracy. Currently, Burton Rands Associates has developed a program, the Criminal Justice Program Support (CJPS), to help support the U.S.’s plan to create new democracies abroad.  This woman-owned small business is hiring lawyers, judges and court administrators to work as “rule of law advisors” in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Liberia, Sudan, and the West Bank. The contract is for 5 years with different projects that could last up to a year. In order to apply for these positions, the applicant must be a U.S. citizen with at least 3 to 5 years of criminal trial experience as a criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, judge, or court administrator.  It is also preferred that the individual have at least 1 year experience with international rule of law programs.

But, is Burton really contracting with these individuals for the purpose of acquiring legal advisors? Alternatively, my belief is that their purpose may really be to re-create another U.S. legal system abroad. Wouldn’t it be hard to incorporate a country’s unique beliefs given that Burton lists that the legal advisors responsibilities include “drafting new legal codes and procedures, training local officials and providing guidance on managing and prosecuting complex criminal cases”? Are the attorneys that contracted with Burton planning to instill a replica of the legal system we have here in the U.S., or are the attorneys contracting to simply give legal advice to help develop these countries their own legal system fit for them?

First, U.S. prosecutors are asked to help teach these countries how to gather evidence in a case, when to initiate a lawsuit, and the how to present a case in the courtroom. Will these experienced prosecutors teach these countries the flaws in our legal system as well as the benefits?

Second, what about the judges and court administrators that contract with Burton? Do these U.S. attorneys strongly believe that our court system works efficiently? Or are they instead an essential part of the alleged U.S. tactics of overreaching to spread democracy?

Clearly, attorneys have gone abroad to help with this mission, but do they know what they are getting into? Is this program appealing to young attorneys ambitious to give legal advice?

Would you commit yourself as an attorney to a yearlong project in Afghanistan? The U.S. military is committed to this “war on terror” but are experienced attorneys just as willing to enlist?

Attorneys that truly are interested in this program should send their resumes to info@burtonrands.com.

See; http://www.burtonrands.com/.


  1. I doubt that a handful of attorneys enlisted by Burton Rands Associates LLC would be able to venture abroad and change the entire legal system in one of these nations to make it resemble the democratic system akin to that in the U.S. Here, this effort is different from military operations, as these attorneys and legal specialists are offering their services and not coercing countries to submit to new rules of law by force.

    However, it is a rather interesting concept. Since some of the countries listed above have been experiencing political and ethnic turmoil, they may embrace this idea of having a board of legal advisors to help craft new legal codes and learn trial techniques from experienced professionals. I do not think that Burton’s goal is to transform these countries into mini-Americas; yet, if these countries gravitate towards our common law system, democracy may eventually come through on its own.

  2. I agree with Amy and do not believe that these attorneys are attempting to create American legal microcosms abroad. It seems like a genuine effort to give other countries the opportunity to better understand our legal system and perhaps mold it to better fit the needs of these countries. It is a controversial topic because spreading democracy is viewed as a positive step toward peace among nations, but on the other hand, many countries reject what we view as assistance. There is a fine line between aiding other countries and getting too close for their own comfort.

  3. Although praiseworthy in purpose, this initiative may not be praiseworthy in result. While our legal system has its flaws, I believe that it is more equitable than most others. This being the case, if another county must select a legal system to emulate, the United States Legal system is one of the better choices. The danger here, however, comes with what could be lost in translation and implementation.

    By “translation” I mean that the “rule of law advisors” must be highly proficient at doing two things: (1) understanding how our legal system works, including all of its intricacies and inner-workings and (2) effectively communicating these intricacies to foreigners.

    By “implementation” I mean that foreigners, responsible for ultimately putting their newly acquired knowledge to use, must do so correctly. This entails understanding intricacies that are often little understood by even our own top legal scholars (e.g., much debate and confusion still surrounds the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard). It also requires the successful conversion of a legal floor plan into a stable and sustainable legal structure.

    If the legal structure collapses – that is, if the resultant legal systems are rampant with injustice – the United States could be left holding the bag.

  4. While a somewhat agree with Amy and Taylor that it does not seem likely that this is the goal of Burton Rands LLC, at the same time I do not find it hard to believe that the undertaking of such a project is so farfetched. I do not find it hard to believe that an American based entity, Burton Rand LLC or another group, would try to imprint the values of the American Legal system onto other countries or even try to clone the American Legal system in those countries. That being said, I don’t know if it is either ethical or even realistic.
    One of the main problems that comes from understanding other cultures is that people do not really try to understand them; rather, they just find their own country’s equivalent to that system and then suppose that an understanding of one method equates to an understanding of another. This is not the case. There is no way to say that by knowing the ins and outs of one system one can assume to know the intricacies of another system. To that end, such an idea of cloning the American system in another country would be impractical and unrealistic, even though some would no doubt want to try. The American legal , or any legal system for that matter, system is designed based on the intricate details of that country’s own system and any belief that an exact copy of that system can be put to work in another country and work successfully with the new country’s own intricacies is downright ludicrous. People need to open their eyes and see things for the way they are. The world is now, despite the so called dividing lines, a global entity. People need to start seeing the world in different ways rather than through the narrow and dogmatic devices that blind then from an international reality.

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