KYIV - February 5, 2021. On the platform of the Ukrainian Bar Association, a debate was held on certain aspects of the implementation of the Concept for the Development of Legal Education, its main advantages and disadvantages. For almost three hours, moderated by Maksym Sheverdin, Ph.D., a member of the UBA Board, coordinator of the UBA Commission for the Improvement of Legal Education, representatives of opposing positions tried to find out all the pros and cons of the Concept. Below are the key theses of the discussion.
The future of the legal profession depends on the level and quality of education, which is the critical need for its improvement. The community is constantly debating the need for the adoption of the Concept, so in order to set the record straight, reputable scholars were invited who defend different positions on the Concept.
The pros were defended by Andriy Boyko, Professor, Doctor of Law
The contras were represented by Volodymyr Sushchenko, Honored Lawyer of Ukraine, Ph.D.
In his introductory remarks, Maksym Sheverdin provided statistics on the number of students receiving legal education and the number of institutions training lawyers. Despite the fact that the largest number of students in Ukraine study law, only 1/10 of graduates find work in the field of law:
“Obviously, the training system for lawyers, as well as the entire education system in Ukraine, needs to change,” - said Mr. Sheverdin.
At the same time, he noted that reforms should be approached carefully so as not to destroy existing assets.
The debate focused on 5 provisions of the Concept that are the most controversial in the legal community.
Regulation 1. Implementation of a thorough master's program in law training
Andriy Boyko noted that the countries where the end-to-end master's degree is practiced are an excellent example of the possibility to provide international cooperation for the expansion of communications and exchange of experience. The speaker is convinced that, in addition to professional training, a modern student should develop competence for active socialization, acquire activity skills in the profession.
According to Mr. Boyko, there are many advantages to implementing such a system. Among them is the elimination of the shortcomings of master's programs, which most Ukrainian universities have not even formed.
Volodymyr Sushchenko stressed that he does not consider university education as preparing a student for professional activity. According to him, this is a model of personality development, the ability to perceive knowledge:
“Access to the profession should take place at the postgraduate level.”
Mr. Sushchenko sees no advantages in implementing such a system.
Regulation 2. Refusal of distance learning
Andriy Boyko said that neither he nor his colleagues - the developers of the Concept are opponents of distance learning, but stressed: the current form of distance learning has already exhausted itself:
“Most part-time students simply could not confirm the required amount of knowledge and competencies, which indicates the low quality of the educational process. The so-called blended forms of education are currently being set up, and each of them must ensure the proper quality of legal training. It is necessary to change the approaches to distance learning; it is obvious that at present it does not provide full-fledged training."
According to the speaker, given the world experience, a prerequisite for such training is at least 50% of contact with teachers, who should explain certain nuances and check the quality of the student's mastery of the material. Mr. Boyko is convinced that the refusal of correspondence does not limit access to education.
Volodymyr Sushchenko holds the opposite view: the speaker believes that distance learning has the right to life, and in addition, it is necessary to develop a distance form to secure access to education for people with disabilities. He does not see an absolute alternative to correspondence, so its destruction will still be a restriction on the right to education.
Regulation 3. Training of lawyers in educational institutions with specific training conditions
Maksym Sheverdin reminded that most of such institutions belong to the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. As of the end of 2020, almost 18% of the total number of bachelors-contractors and a little more than 30% of all contractors-masters studied there. At the same time, 55% of the state order for the training of bachelors of law was transferred to such institutions. If 1,400 places have been allocated by the Ministry of Education and Science for the preparation of bachelors, 1,516 places have been allocated for institutions with specific conditions of study, 1080 of them in the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Opponents of such training point to the impossibility of educating personal qualities necessary for the legal profession.
Therefore, is such training appropriate in a modern democratic Ukraine?
Andriy Boyko answers: “The answer is simple. Legal specialty - a profession endowed with signs of independence, responsibility to society, self-government. A lawyer serves society. Therefore, one should be trained in institutions where there are guaranteed academic rights and freedoms of the student, where the university is open to communication with the community, where the principles of autonomy can be established. There is no such thing in institutions with specific conditions.”
Volodymyr Sushchenko emphasized: "it is impossible to cut with checkers". According to him, the situation needs analysis. Moreover, the practical component of training a lawyer in such institutions is usually better than in civilian institutions.
Regulation 4. Format of the unified state qualifying examination
Maksym Sheverdin reminded that such an exam will be held for the first time since 2021. Law schools have taken the innovation negatively, arguing that university autonomy could be undermined. So, will USQE increase the quality of education and the employer's trust in a law degree?
Volodymyr Sushchenko is convinced that no. He noted that this is just an attempt to equalize everyone, and is not a significant indicator of the quality of knowledge.
Andriy Boyko believes that USQE will allow to form the necessary parameters of the quality of knowledge within the mandatory disciplines, the only ones for the specialty.
Regulation 5. Harmonization of the list of branches of knowledge and specialties in terms of the ratio of branches of knowledge "Law" and "International Relations" and specialties "Law" and "International Law"
The moderator called the final block of questions almost the most controversial. Is it appropriate to train a lawyer within the field of knowledge "International Relations" and not in the field of "Law"?
Andriy Boyko remarked: “In fact, it is very strange to define the question of when a lawyer is trained in different fields of knowledge or in different specialties. In fact, it is about acquiring the same competencies, but for some reason these are different specialties in different fields of knowledge. "
Volodymyr Sushchenko stressed: "One could agree with the proposal to include the specialty "International Law" as a completely independent component of the field of "Law", but on one condition - the lack of a single state qualifying exam." At the end of the debate, Maksym Sheverdin noted that this format of discussion allows to ask direct questions and get specific answers:
“Constructive dialogue is a path to improvement, and I see that the future of our legal education is clear.”