On March 13, international and national experts engaged by the USAID New Justice Program presented the model Legal Research and Writing Course in Ukrainian for first-year students and Legal Writing in English Course for third- and fourth-year students.
Legal writing is one of the weakest points in our educational programs because it is quite difficult to teach students not only to think like lawyers but also to explain and justify their opinion clearly. It is important that, along with national experts, international experts were involved in developing these model programs, as they could bring into the process the long-term experience of the world’s leading universities. I would also like to thank the USAID New Justice Program for supporting the academic legal community in creating the high-quality content of educational programs for many years,” said Professor Andriy Boyko, Head of the Ministry of Education Methodological and Academic Council’s Sub-Committee on Legal Education Standards.
Experts aimed model courses at developing students’ competence to research and understand the sources of law, identify legal problems, and analyze them to apply the appropriate legal source to specific circumstances of the case when resolving a conflict. An important practical component of the courses is teaching students to prepare draft documents that provide a logical and consistent presentation of ideas. Additionally, the Legal Writing in English Course is designed to help students understand, translate, and practice foreign legal sources and terms. As foreign legal terminology reflects the country’s legal system’s specific features, which may differ to some extent from the system in Ukraine, the course materials also provide a comparative approach, as it is directly related to the understanding of the terminology in particular legal systems.
Supporting the creation of both model programs, we assumed that currently, the quality of legal writing skills of many legal practitioners does not meet the requirements of clarity and structure. This results from the fact that students often take only oral exams and have insufficient practice in shaping the content and structure of legal documents. Therefore, the absence of legal writing courses in educational programs ultimately negatively affects the quality of legislation, court decisions, etc. It is pertinent and gratifying to note that the initiative to create Legal Writing and Legal English Courses came from Ukrainian teachers who are well aware of the need for such courses in nurturing law students,” said Nataliya Petrova, USAID New Justice Program Deputy Chief of Party.
At the presentation, international experts – Delaine R. Swenson, Director of the Center for Advancing Legal Skills and the Center for American Law at the John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, and Amy Vorenberg, Director of the Legal Writing Development Program at the University of New Hampshire Law School – shared general approaches to content and creation of the presented model programs. Professor Swenson told the participants about the conducted analysis of the necessary skills for legal research and writing. Professor Vorenberg shared with the audience an overview of the essential components of acquiring the knowledge needed for legal research.
Presenting model training programs, Ukrainian experts spoke about the peculiarities of creating courses and the prospects for their implementation. In particular, Oleh Kireyevsky, attorney at law and lecturer at the School of Law of the Ukrainian Catholic University, said that the Legal Research and Writing Course includes 15 weeks of study (with classes every week), nine topics and practical assignments and exercises on each topic. As a result of this course, students should learn to determine the facts appropriate and acceptable for the legal analysis and analyze legal issues to develop and justify legal positions.
Inna Zaiarna, teacher of Legal English at Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University, and Olha Grishyna, founder of legal English language courses, presented Legal Writing in English Course. This course should help third- and fourth-year students understand authentic professional texts in English, summarize what they have read (written summary), and apply simple English rules to write legal texts.
At the end of the presentation, Ms. Nataliya Petrova asked all participants – law teachers and representatives of the administration of higher legal education institutions – to inform the USAID New Justice Program about their interest in implementing the presented model programs to determine the scope of further potential cooperation.