Through the Canadian Bar Association’s Young Lawyers International Program, alumna Maya Smith found her internship at the National Legislative Development Project in Vietnam to be a rich and rewarding experience, cementing her appreciation for legislative development, the rule of law, and the process for reform. She shares her story with Focus online.

2016-september-maya-smith-vietnam-IMG_0279 Preparing a kumquat tree for transportation, Hanoi.
2016-september-maya-smith-vietnam-IMG_0310 Flower Market for the Lunar New Year in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
2016-september-maya-smith-vietnam-DSC02737 Young Canadian lawyers Maya and Liza with their colleagues at the National Legislative Development Project.
2016-september-maya-smith-vietnam-DSC00745 Maya joined her colleague Loan on a visit to her family in Cao Bang Province.

By Maya Smith, BCL/LLB’14

In January 2016, I started my placement with the Young Lawyers International Program (YLIP) at the National Legislative Development Project (NLD) in Hanoi, Vietnam. I was lucky to arrive in Vietnam’s capital only a few short weeks ahead of the Lunar New Year.

At that time, local markets were a flurry of holiday shoppers and red lanterns, motorbikes toted bunches of peach blossoms and festive kumquat trees (hallmarks of the holiday) across the city, and streets were lined by elaborate light installations. These scenes of busy activity and growing prosperity painted the perfect backdrop for understanding the work and relevance of the NLD.

The NLD works at the intersection of the law and economic development. It is a project undertaken with the financial support of Global Affairs Canada and executed by a consortium of the Canadian Bar Association, the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario, and Stikeman Elliot LLP. Its main task is to assist the Government of Vietnam in improving the quality, consistency, and transparency of its law-making process; reforms that should strengthen the rule of law and foster an environment more conducive to investment and equitable economic development.

Working at the National Legislative Development Project was a rich and rewarding experience. I enjoyed working with a smart and committed team to document and support reforms to the law-making process in Vietnam.

My responsibilities included leading seminars on law and legislative processes in Canada, researching and writing about issues of Vietnamese law and legislative processes, and helping organize activities to improve legislative development in the country.

One of my favourite projects was co-authoring a briefing for a policy discussion the Canadian Embassy hosted on the effect of recent changes in legislation to the promotion of human rights in Vietnam. Working on these issues cemented my appreciation for legislative development, the rule of law, and the process for reform.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to have lived and worked in Vietnam. The city of Hanoi is a wonderful fusion of old-world charm and dynamism. I loved walking the busy streets and the promise of experiencing new sights, sounds, and tastes.

I was lucky to have been invited by new friends on visits to their hometowns. These trips were an amazing window onto the country’s rich culture and landscapes.

That said, the thing I miss the most is the warmth and joie de vivre of the people I met in Vietnam.

Editor’s note: The CBA’s Young Lawyers International Program places young lawyers in internships with overseas legal organizations working in human rights and access to justice. Among the placements is the National Legislative Development Project (NLD), which is designed to assist the Government of Vietnam in addressing issues of quality, consistency and transparency in its law-making process and to make legislation more enforceable and effective. The NLD project is undertaken with financial support from the Government of Canada.