A task force headed by Attorney General Doodnauth Singh has begun the preparatory work for the establishment of a local law school at the University of Guyana that would offer practical training for law graduates intending to become attorneys-at- law.
If sanctioned by the Council of Legal Education (CLE), the graduates of the local law school would be entitled to practise before the courts in Guyana and the other CARICOM member states as well as before the Caribbean Court of Justice. It is planned that the school would open its doors at the beginning of the 2003/2004 academic year.
Among the members of a task force set up to pursue the matter are Chancellor of the Judiciary Desiree Bernard, UG Vice Chancellor James Rose, Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty, Dr Mark Kirton, a representative of the Bar Association and a member of the Attorney General's Chambers.
The Attorney General told Stabroek News that he has already written the CLE about the establishment of the committee and that he would indicate when it would be ready to meet with the members of the CLE.
Singh said that the task force established late last year had already received a report from the Librarian of the University of Guyana, Yvonne Lancaster, about the additional required and recommended texts the library would need to acquire.
Stabroek News understands that Lancaster also raised the need for access to Lexus Nexus, a legal reference website and the need for a trained law librarian as well as additional space to accommodate the new holdings.
Singh said the task force had already begun looking at accommodation for the law school within the precincts of the university campus, while constructing a new building was also being considered. Among the buildings under consideration is the one that at present houses the Institute of Applied Science and Technology and the Environmental Protection Agency.
At the last meeting of the CLE where Singh announced Guyana's intention to set up a local law school it was agreed that a CLE task force would be set up to work with the local task force on the preparatory arrangements.
The government decided to set up a local law school after it informed the CLE that it would no longer be responsible for meeting the cost of the tuition for Guyanese students at the Hugh Wooding School of Law. Its decision was also prompted by the restriction on the number of UG law graduates that could gain automatic entry to Hugh Wooding.
At the request of the Attorney General, the Head of the University of Guyana Law Department, Prof Rudy James, and some senior members of the department developed a concept paper, which was adopted by the Cabinet.
Last year about 15 UG law graduates were denied automatic entry to Hugh Wooding and were only allowed to enrol if they passed the open entrance examination for the places available in the quotas allocated to other territories. The CLE introduced the exam to address the overcrowding at Hugh Wooding.
Meanwhile, some 58 students including 13 non- Guyanese, are enrolled for the First Year of the LLB programme.
According to Prof James' paper, the proposed law school would complement the LLB programme and enhance the resources necessary for the further development of legal education at UG.
However Prof James has conceded that the establishment of the proposed law school would have implications for the nature and content of the Collaborative Agreement between the University of Guyana and the Council of Legal Education. Its signatories are at present reviewing this agreement.
He said the law school could enhance the university's plans for taking legal education beyond its walls by programmes such as legal aid and advisory services.
Prof James' paper called for the law school to be sited on the Turkeyen campus and to be created by legislation. It is to be run by a board chaired by the Chief Justice and on which will sit representatives of the government, the local bar association, UG and the Council of Legal Education, among others.
Prof James anticipates that the law school will attract law graduates other than Guyanese nationals.
The paper proposed that the school share some common facilities with the law department such as the library, the Resource Centre and the Meeting Room.
The estimated capital cost for building and developing the Law Library and the Resource Centre is about US$1.5M for which the government will be responsible. The estimated annual recurrent expenditure is in the region of US$81,000, to be met from an annual subvention and fees in the region of US$179,000.