Alabama attorney spends a year in Uganda helping to fight land grabs
Adams volunteered with the International Justice Mission, a nonprofit that fights violence against the poor and reforms dysfunctional justice systems worldwide. In Uganda, the group's major focus is protecting poor families from land grabs. Often, the victims are recently bereaved widows and children. After the death, more powerful relatives or neighbors take the home and land through deception or physical force—leaving victims homeless and destitute. The IJM says an estimated 90 percent of sub-Saharan Africans are vulnerable to this crime because they don't have formal title to their own land.
Through his volunteer work, Adams helped Ugandan attorneys for the IJM prosecute land-grabbers. He couldn't appear in court but helped write briefs and analyze cases referred to the office; he also wrote contracts for related needs.
"In Western countries, we have public justice systems that ... people can rely on to be protected from violence," says Adams, a member of the ABA's Section on Real Property, Trust and Estate Law. "That is not true for lots of places around the world. You see that in a new way living outside of your own country."
While Adams left behind his caseload at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings (his firm gave him a year's leave), his wife and children joined him for part of his stay in Uganda. His wife, a lawyer turned stay-at-home mother, homeschooled their children while they were in Uganda.
A Christian, Adams says he and his wife felt called to do this work. The IJM is inspired by Christian beliefs, though it's not an evangelical organization and doesn't ask about the faiths of its clients.
"I think one calling we have as humans, and lawyers in particular, [is] to bring redemption to the world through our work," he says. "I hope that translates into our work here."