Legal Professionals in Development: Timor-Leste’s Legislative Experiment

Considerable effort is being undertaken to consolidate Timor-Leste’s post-conflict legacy of incomplete and conflicting legal traditions. Whilst aid interventions have typically prioritised the strengthening of courts, relatively little attention has been given to the role of the justice sector professionals who must occupy them. With the recent regulation, by Timor-Leste’s National Parliament, of the legal profession, there is now an implicit investment in the potential of lawyers collectively to support the nation-building endeavour. Their ability to assist in navigating a complex and evolving system makes them critical personnel for building confidence in formal processes and promoting identification with state objectives. Functioning as educators and intermediaries between community and government, lawyers have the potential to wield, or otherwise to fall victim to, political power. This paper examines the growing importance of the legal profession as a stakeholder in Timorese security and development. The role of lawyers as agents of reform is discussed and obstacles to greater engagement with policy formation are considered.

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