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
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.”