Legal aid clinic on UG campus
By Jaime Hall
October 29, 2003
A Legal Aid Clinic set up at the University of Guyana (UG) Turkeyen campus by the UG Law Society to provide practical working experience for law students, was officially opened on Friday last. But primarily, the clinic will offer legal advice to persons who cannot afford legal fees.
Chancellor of the Judiciary, Ms. Desiree Bernard, who was the guest speaker at the opening ceremony, cut the ribbon to open the doors of the building where the office of the clinic is housed.
She said the clinic is designed to offer legal services for the poor and the work should be voluntary. However, if any charges are to be made it should be minimal. The law students would be supervised by two young attorneys.
The university population would have an advantage in accessing the service of the clinic but all Guyanese citizens in time of crisis could benefit too particularly those who cannot afford legal fees.
Ms Bernard noted that it is very good that the clinic has been established at this stage. Formally, law students only have this experience at the latter part in their studies at Hugh Wooding for example.
However, she cautioned that those law students who would be gaining practical experience at the clinic to ensure they give the right advice and don't mislead the clients.
She said if there is anything the students are not sure about, they could ask the client to return until research is done to give proper advice. But this does not apply to when lawyers are admitted to practice.
"Nobody knows every thing, and don't be afraid to say you don't know, remember it is a learning experience through out life", she commented.
Lawyers in practice must be able to be quick and develop an analytical approach to whatever case they would have on hand.
Bernard explained that when the first clinics were formed it attracted members of the legal profession and appealed to their sense of responsibility in society to give of their services on specified days of the week.
This continued for some time. Until now there are still some persons in the profession who undertake cases sent to them by the legal aid clinic.
University Vice-Chancellor Dr. James Rose in his remarks said the clinic has made the law department the most pro active on campus and this is a step in the right direction, he noted.
He said, there is a need for legal aid and the law department has risen to the challenge. He said the department is attempting to do on its own what the university is still attempting to negotiate for other students- that is practical experience.
The present legal aid clinic ran into some financial problem but it has now been salvaged to some extent by the government. Despite this it still faces a crisis.
A Legal Aid Clinic is absolutely necessary in any society. There were already two attempts at setting up legal aid centre in Georgetown. The first was established around 1974. This functioned for about five years and was held up because of lack of funds keep it running.
The second attempt at setting up a centre was in 1994 at King Street, Georgetown. The building was donated by the government and funding provided too.