Proposed law school will not fall under UG - James By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
September 2, 2002

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The law school which the government is to set up will not come under the University of Guyana (UG), but will be managed by a board established by legislation and chaired by the Chief Justice, according to the head of the law department at UG, Professor Rudy James.

According to James, the Guyana Bar Association, the University of Guyana and the Council of Legal Education (CLE) are among the institutions it is proposed will be represented on the board of the law school. Last week, a task force was set up to define proposals for the establishment of the law school, which the government wants to be operational by the 2003/4 academic year. The Attorney-General and the Head of the Department of Law are members of the task force.

This weekend, the Attorney-General will formally advise the CLE of the intention to set up the law school and it is hoped that approval for its accreditation would be obtained. Such approval would give the school’s graduates the right to practise before the courts in the region in the same way that graduates of the Hugh Wooding and Norman Manley Law Schools are permitted to do.

James told Stabroek News that the paper that he had put up to the Attorney-General and which the Cabinet had endorsed did not envisage the school coming under the administration of either the University of Guyana or its Faculty of Social Sciences. However, the law school would be located in an existing building at UG or a new building constructed on its campus, and would share some resources with the UG law programme such as the Resource Centre and Law Library.

James said that the paper endorsed by the Cabinet provided for the school to be headed by a director who would be paid at the level of a professor, as well as a deputy director. He explained too that while the school would be an independent institution which would seek to be accredited by the CLE, the paper had recommended that an official of one of the law schools run by the CLE should be invited for a six-month period to assist in organising its establishment and to run seminars on best practices employed by law schools around the world.

There is concern about the nature of the relationship of the proposed law school with UG as some observers say that the proposal had not been discussed with the university either at the level of the Faculty of Social Sciences, which has responsibility for the law department or the university’s Academic Board.

But James said that neither the law school in Jamaica nor the one in Trinidad was associated with the University of the West Indies (UWI) even though they were located on its campuses.

Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Mark Kirton, is of the opinion that once the law school is autonomous and independent of the university, UG does not have to sanction its structure or its courses. However, if it were to be in someway academically affiliated to UG then it would have to have some input.

Kirton was instrumental in UG offering the full LLB degree and the initial collaborative agreement with UWI and the CLE that provided for the automatic entry of 25 of the graduates of the programme to the Hugh Wooding Law School.

UG graduates not covered by the collaborative agreement are required to sit an entry examination for those places left over after the quota of places for the member states has been filled. The decision of the CLE to limit entry to Hugh Wooding through this mechanism was designed to prevent overcrowding.

The need to accommodate UG graduates who do not gain automatic entry to Hugh Wooding, and the high cost of tuition for those nationals who are enrolled at the school - a cost which is no longer met by the government - have been the major factors informing the decision to set up a local law school.

James in an earlier interview told Stabroek News that with a law school in Guyana the cost of tuition for the Guyanese students could be lowered. He said too that the curriculum of the school could be constructed so as to focus on teaching practice skills and legal research using the computer, and providing for continuing education courses for lawyers already in practice.