Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JULY 2011
Profiles in the Law
The Law as a Mission:
Hadley Rose Finds Fulfillment in Developing Countries
By Cliff Collins

Hadley Rose poses with boys from the orphanage in Rwanda that she frequently visits.

She has taught discipleship in Ghana, volunteered at an orphanage in Morocco, summer clerked in Bangladesh, represented victims of the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations tribunal in Cambodia, and worked with the Ministry of Justice in Rwanda.

She is Hadley W. Rose. And, even after doing all this already, she is only 28.

Rose graduated magna cum laude from both Pennsylvania State University and Willamette University College of Law. But instead of landing a lucrative position with a prestigious law firm, she spent 19 months volunteering in Rwanda for the International Justice Mission and then suffering from Dengue fever in Phnom Penh while helping survivors of The Killing Fields.

She currently is spending a year working for the government in Rwanda — her first paid job overseas — drafting legislation for that tiny country, which is about the size of Maryland and is bordered to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the south by Burundi, to the east by Tanzania and to the north by Uganda.

During law school, Rose saw her self-confidence soar. She was editor-in-chief of the Willamette Law Review, landed a hard-to-get first-year clerkship with the Department of Justice, and financed her unpaid missions overseas by effectively fundraising from colleagues and churches. Rose was able to overcome the standard assumption that she should follow the well-worn path top law grads are supposed to pursue.

When one is a high-achiever like Rose, “it’s harder to do things way outside the box like she does,” says Hillary A. Taylor, with Hoffman, Hart & Wagner, a close friend who served as managing editor of the Willamette Law Review under Rose. “There’s definitely a feeling, an expectation, that the top 10 percent in their class are expected to go into high-paying law firm jobs.” Rose bucked the pressure to be who others thought she should be, and instead listened to that still, small voice beckoning her to serve in exotic locales populated by the disadvantaged.

Rose is due to complete her stint in Rwanda this fall. When she does, she hasn’t determined yet exactly what she will pursue after that, but she knows one thing: She would never be satisfied working in anything where she is not helping impoverished people: “I feel that making a difference for the poor is my calling and life’s purpose.”

Gaining a Global Perspective
Rose was born in Salem, and spent her first 10 years there. After that, her family moved to Washington, living in the Spokane and Seattle areas. Rose says she first “got the travel bug” from her father, who set as a goal that the family would visit all 50 states and capitals. Once she had seen 48 of the 50, she had finished high school and headed east to college at Penn State.

In college, she joined Young Life, a Christian youth group, and often mentored young people. In the summer of her junior year, Rose spent three weeks in Ghana as a volunteer with The Navigators, an interdenominational mission group. “That’s when it really started for me,” she says. “Seeing the world.” The cross-cultural experience opened her eyes to the fact that there are “desperate people in the world. Maybe I could do something to help them.”

She completed her bachelor’s degree in English literature and then applied to law school. She figured she could use her law degree and knowledge to serve people who are in need. The first semester after she started at Willamette, Rose took a trip to Morocco, where she visited an orphanage a couple of times.

During her second-year summer, Rose went to Bangladesh to work at Grameen Bank, supported by a public-interest law fellowship from Willamette. The bank provides small, low-interest loans to villagers, and Rose worked mostly with local women who were learning to start their own businesses.

Taylor thinks that clerkship was a significant turning point for Rose and “changed her outlook.” After that experience, it was obvious to Taylor that Rose wasn’t going to launch her legal career behind a desk in a big law firm. “One of the reasons she’s so impressive is she thought that anything she wanted to do, she could do. She has a lot of courage and is able to tackle things no one else would consider.”

Rose feels Bangladesh was the reason she was able to get her next job: “It showed I was willing to go out to challenging countries.” After finishing law school, she spent the summer of 2008 studying eight hours a day preparing for the bar exam, while at the same time trying to raise about $20,000 to pay for her upcoming first trip to Rwanda.

“I don’t know how I did it. I raised over $30,000 by the time I was done. There was a whole village of people behind me.” She justifiably presented the work as a mission, and churches responded to that.

“She’s a person who knows how to use words in a way that affects people,” explains Taylor. “She can talk comfortably to anyone in any position, which is an unusual skill for anyone.”

During her first year in Rwanda, Rose couldn’t practice law in that country, but her legal skills surpassed those of the lawyers in the bar, and she was able to assist them. “I got a ton of responsibility that I would never have gotten at a law firm,” she says. “It was a huge privilege for me, and I got to do it for people who were so deserving.”

Right before her time was up in Rwanda, Rose applied for a volunteer position with a nonprofit organization that represented victims of war crimes in Cambodia. She had expected the post would be in the Netherlands. She spent three weeks taking a vacation in Eastern Europe, then suddenly was notified that she had gotten the job.

“The last thing they blurted out was, ‘You know it’s in Phnom Penh, right?’ ” Her response was, “Where is that?”

She found out in short order. She acknowledges that it was stressful to leave one foreign country to go straight to another, with a completely different culture and as a volunteer. “But I just saw the opportunity was too good — to do U.N. tribunal work, to lead a team, to be the one person on the ground to carry the case. Three months, do it and come home. I thought I would be crazy not to.” She sent out another mass emailing, and supporters and churches back home responded with around $7,000.

Being in Cambodia “was a pretty rough transition,” Rose admits. She hadn’t researched ahead what to expect. Within 10 days, she came down with Dengue fever, which is caused by various viruses spread via mosquito bites. It was a sweltering, uncomfortable country. “I had some bad days, but I knew I had to finish the trial.” But after the trial ended, “I felt there was something more for me there. I ended up getting an internship with the court working for judges on a different trial.”

Returning to Rwanda
She came back to the States in April 2010, home for the first time in 19 months. “I spent most of the spring and summer processing through my experiences — much of my work was very challenging emotionally — and purposely not working, but just getting used to the U.S. again.” Her plan was to pursue a doctorate last fall in “justice, law and society.” But late last summer, she was offered a paid position at the Ministry of Justice in Rwanda in the legislative drafting department. She decided to put off the Ph.D. and take the position, leaving in September, where she continues working on a one-year contract.

“I’m doing what I love and what I live for,” Rose exults. “And someone’s paying me to do it. It was really neat to come back.” One of her responsibilities is to edit and revise the English version of the country’s laws and to reconcile the English version with the French and Kinyarwanda versions — Kinyarwanda being the native language and considered among “the top-10 most difficult languages in the world,” she says. The local language “creates a barrier to what you want to do,” she says. “You want to be in court representing clients, but you can’t. It’s harder to make friends; nobody can truly express themselves. That makes it tough to get close to people.”

“I sometimes can’t believe a person of my age and experience is allowed to write laws for a country,” Rose reflects. She also spends time trying to challenge lawyers there to think critically when they work on laws, to realize that “every word is going to affect people.”

Rose lives in a modern rented house with two other American attorneys in Kigali, “probably the cleanest, most organized African city,” in her estimation. “Security is incredible. You can walk out late at night by yourself.” The military, rather than police, provide that security. “I see at least 20 soldiers a day walking quietly and a helicopter once in a while,” she says. “It’s very different from what I’m used to; it was unnerving at first.”

In her off-duty hours, she dedicates time to traveling. “I try to get the most out of my experiences. For example, I’ve been to some of the most remote areas of Cambodia, spent Christmas in Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia), safaried around the Masai region of Tanzania, and have taken a self-driven road trip through Uganda. Because life is not always easy in some of the places I’ve lived, I’ve found it’s very important for me to recharge, and traveling is one of the ways I do that.”

Rose hopes more attorneys will volunteer for overseas work. “I would really encourage lawyers who feel a similar calling to listen to that call! Once I let go of the need to fulfill someone else’s idea of what I should be doing, I was able to really thrive, and I absolutely love everything I’ve done since law school, whether paid or not.”

And even if lawyers don’t feel a pull to do full-time work overseas, they can contribute a lot on short-term volunteer missions, she says.

“Our rigorous legal training and our critical-thinking skills are a great asset we can bring to developing nations. And by approaching such opportunities with humility and lots of patience, I think in the end, we often learn just as much as those we’re supposed to be teaching.”

Cliff Collins is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.

© 2011 Cliff Collins

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