Law firms want more prac­ti­cal cour­ses at Ukraine’s law schools

Uni­ver­si­ties fo­cus too much on the­ory and not enough on case law and pro­ce­dure

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Contents - By Olena Goncharova goncharova@kyivpost.com

Law firms in Ukraine of­ten voice con­cern about the qual­ity of legal ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try. As a re­sult, law stu­dents grad­u­at­ing from a Ukrainian uni­ver­sity of­ten strug­gle to find a job in a highly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.

Many law stu­dents in Ukraine say they don’t get enough help to find an area of ex­per­tise, with a cur­ricu­lum heav­ily fo­cused on the­ory rather than case law and pro­ce­dure.

There are more than 200 uni­ver­si­ties pro­vid­ing legal ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try, yet not a sin­gle one was listed in The Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion 2014 World Uni­ver­sity Rank­ings.

“Many newly grad­u­ated Ukrainian lawyers are barely able to put in writ­ing the prod­uct of their ar­guably la­bo­ri­ous work,” says Olexandr Mar­ty­nenko, lawyer from CMS Cameron Mckenna. “That means they are pro­fes­sion­ally in­ept.”

Mar­ty­nenko says the manda­tory cur­ricu­lum for legal ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams is part of the prob­lem. Law schools aren’t able to tai­lor their own pro­grams to ad­dress the de­mands of the la­bor mar­ket, he ex­plains.

He ar­gues that the Amer­i­can sys­tem, in­clud­ing op­tional cour­ses and per­sonal tu­tor­ing, would be help­ful. Mar­ty­nenko also rec­om­mends a post-grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion in law for those who al­ready have some pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence and want to dig deeper into the spe­cific ar­eas of law.

Oleh Mal­skyy from the Astapov Lawyers, agrees that Ukrainian legal ed­u­ca­tion lacks the prac­tice-ori­ented teach­ing which is popular in the West.

“Their (Amer­i­can and Bri­tish) sys­tems are very prac­ti­cal and their uni­ver­si­ties have a num­ber of teach­ers who are prac­tic­ing lawyers and not pure schol­ars,” he says.”west­ern ed­u­ca­tion and bar ex­ams are tar­geted at pre­par­ing stu­dents ready to prac­tice law upon grad­u­a­tion.”

A grad­u­ate of the World Trade In­sti­tute and Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity, Mal­skyy adds that lo­cal stu­dents of­ten fail to show the client how to pro­ceed in re­solv­ing a spe­cific prob­lem.

An­driy Me­le­shevych, newly elected pres­i­dent of Kyiv Mo­hyla Academy and head of the legal depart­ment prior to his elec­tion, based the depart­ment’s model on a com­bi­na­tion of Amer­i­can and Ger­man teach­ing.

“The Ger­man sys­tem is loaded with the­o­ret­i­cal back­ground, while An­glo-amer­i­can fo­cuses mostly on cases,” Me­le­shevych told the Legal Quar­terly. “We de­cided to mix it. So our stu­dents also start with the­ory, then it is fol­lowed by more prac­ti­cal is­sues.”

The uni­ver­sity en­cour­ages its stu­dents to take part in sim­u­lated court hear­ings and legal clin­ics, Me­le­shevych be­lieves.

“Our stu­dents like to par­tic­i­pate in moot courts and of­ten travel abroad to take part in in­ter­na­tional ones. It’s good to learn how to de­bate with col­leagues.”

Me­le­shevych points out that lec­tures alone can’t pro­vide stu­dents with the ex­pe­ri­ence they need, par­tic­u­larly when pro­fes­sors do not treat their stu­dents as equal and teach through “dic­ta­tor­ship” in the class­room, quash­ing de­bate.

Kyiv Mo­hyla Academy grad­u­ate Alina Svider­ska found moot courts the most use­ful part of her stu­dent years: “It’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence and some­thing that re­ally helped to im­prove crit­i­cal think­ing.” Her ex­pe­ri­ence en­abled her to go on and earn a mas­ter of law de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge.

Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko Law School is re­garded within Ukraine as one of the coun­try’s most pres­ti­gious, but comes up short in prac­ti­cal train­ing. While Kateryna Ksiondzyk, who fin­ished her masters in law there this year said that “the­o­ret­i­cal cour­ses are not enough to be­come a pro­fes­sional. And many grad­u­ates ad­mit they have to go back to stud­ies again af­ter they have al­ready got their jobs.”

Kyiv's Taras Shevchenko Na­tional Uni­ver­sity stu­dents check their sched­ule. Its law school is re­garded as one of the most pres­ti­gious in the coun­try. (Anas­ta­sia Vlasova)

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