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University legal clinics – from volunteering to vocation
Legal clinic in action Photo from archive ULAF
Legal clinic in action

A legal clinic (not to be confused with medical institutions) is a structural division of the University in which law students under professors’ guidance gain practical training – to provide Pro Bono assistance.

Teachers’ volunteering in this case is not only following their hearts. The fact is that despite the definitions and Regulations of the Ministry of Education from 2006, the majority of legal clinics of Ukraine are still not structural subdivisions of universities and therefore, universities do not allocate resources to support them, except rooms and some equipment. This also applies to the salaries of curators - additional remuneration to professors for their work with students in legal clinics by the university budgets is not provided.

Thus, according to the survey, each clinic provides approximately 20 teacher-tested writing consultations monthly. Clients of legal clinics are the most vulnerable groups of society who lack the means to pay for such advice elsewhere. To hire a lawyer is an unprecedented luxury for these people. Therefore, such providers of legal aid, as legal clinics, are also of great social importance.

Curators see volunteering as an opportunity to show students ways of applying theory. Fortunately, in Ukraine such heroic enthusiasts are enough, but this is the same example, when the state and the Ministry of Education in particular, must finally pay attention to the development of clinical legal education.

According to a member of the Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine, Doctor of Juridical Science Andriy Galay, "... today legal clinic is the perfect technology of practical direction of legal education. Legal clinical movement, i.e. teachers and students of legal clinics is one of the most creative and progressive community of higher institutions of Ukraine. Unfortunately, today we can only dream of a stable support to more than 50 legal clinics in Ukraine. Domestic universities in the difficult conditions of the crisis of higher education can’t maintain them".

This year the International Renaissance Foundation once again supported the initiative of curators and students who participate in clinical legal motion regarding the holding of all-Ukrainian competition of quality of advising clients. The tournament will be held in Ostroh Academy on March 10-12, 2016. One of the challenges faced by the organizers is the development of the institutional capacity of the Association of Legal Clinics and incorporating them into a nationwide process of creating a system of free legal aid. For example, the curator of the specified tournament Maria Tsypiaschuk says:

“The legal clinic has successfully cooperated with the state centres of free legal aid (www.legalaid.gov.ua), network of NGOs, Law Community Centers (www.legalspace.org), as the goals and objectives of such groups is largely similar. However, the idea of such cooperation should be approached given the scope and complexity of legal work that can be performed by clinicians and, thus, to relieve such as the state centres of free legal aid. On the other hand, other providers of legal assistance can be an effective source of practical experience for graduate students. Thus, it is possible simultaneously to implement educational and socially-focused components of the idea of the functioning of legal clinics”.

RRomanov

In February 2016 at the national Congress of the members of the Association of Legal Clinics a new Chairman of the Board was elected – it was a young Deputy Dean of the law faculty of the National Juridical Academy of Odessa Maksym Lodzhuk. In his first statement he stated:

“...in Ukraine there are around 300 law schools, but it is unknown about the existence and operation of such number of legal clinics, the presence of which in the structure of law educational institutions is mandatory according to the order of MES of Ukraine 2006. Therefore, only when the representatives of domestic legal clinical movement understand the real situation, one can start to search for new approaches to enhance the role of legal clinics as unique databases of the acquisition by students of practical skills of the legal profession”.

Students

 

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