Clio Cloud Conference: Kimberley Motley Keynote

Kimberley Motley opened her practice in Afghanistan in 2003, becoming the first foreigner to litigate in Afghan courts. As a passionate advocate for justice, she’s received international acclaim for her work from the likes of the BBC, CNN, NBC, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and many others.

Kimberley gave a keynote presentation to close the first day of the Clio Cloud Conference, where she set the bar high for lawyers and their role in defending justice.

As lawyers, it’s our job to understand how the law works, and to apply it to justice. The law is what governs us. The law is what governs society. But the law doesn’t mean anything if we don’t use it in a proper way, because the rule of law means nothing if there is no role of law.

Enforcing the Rule of Law for Good

As someone who dedicates 30 percent of her practice to pro bono work, Kimberley recounted powerful case stories: Sahar, a 12-year-old girl in Afghanistan forced into marriage and prostitution who suffered torture and starvation; Nikki, a UK mother who had her three children kidnapped and couldn’t get support from authorities due to international restrictions; and Anwar Ibrahim, a prominent politician in Malaysia wrongfully accused and convicted of multiple crimes in politically motivated charges.

Kimberley works internationally, and her practice needs to take into account many cultural and regional factors for every jurisdiction she works in. It’s something she does with her own brand of practice, called Motley’s Law. She also emphasizes that the legal problems of individuals in any country have implications for laws and justice for individuals around the world.  

In my travels around the world, I find that there are three significant problems in achieving justice, especially in places like Afghanistan. 1) People don’t know what their rights are … 2) Even when there are good laws in the books, those laws are often superseded by cultural practices. 3) Often, there aren’t people or lawyers who are willing to fight for justice on behalf of their clients.

These cases are not about individual problems. They represent larger global issues—human trafficking, illegal prosecution, and domestic violence. These cases, while anomalies, represent the possibilities of what you can do when you use the laws for their intended purposes. They show that even in countries like Afghanistan—one of the most corrupt countries in the world—sometimes, when you use the laws in the way they’re meant to be used, our voices cannot be denied.

The law is our instrument. The law is our voice … We have a unique opportunity as lawyers, and as business owners, to all become global investors in human rights. It’s our job to bring confidence back to the rule of law, and to understand that, again, the rule of law means nothing if there is no role of laws … By doing this, we help so many in achieving justice. And we work towards a society where justness is the rule and not the exception.

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