UG legal aid clinic launched
Stabroek News
October 25, 2003

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The Faculty of Law at the University of Guyana (UG) yesterday opened its legal aid clinic with a call from Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard for law students to love the law before entering the profession.

The clinic will provide services to the university community and the general public free of cost. Law students will undertake cases under the supervision of two practising attorneys-at-law, but resources are needed to get the clinic going.

A word of advice! Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard (third from left) chats with UG law students yesterday at the opening of the Law faculty’s Legal Aid Clinic. (Jules Gibson photo)

Speaking at the opening ceremony yesterday, Chancellor Bernard told the students that such a clinic was absolutely necessary in Guyana, especially at a time when the current Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic had become cash-strapped and government was now trying to rescue it.

Bernard told the students that she had been intimately attached to legal-aid services for a very long time, adding that these services should be voluntary with persons receiving help at minimal or no charge.

She observed that the clinic will provide experience for the aspiring lawyers, but warned against them giving incorrect advice. She urged that they consult the law books or ask for help whenever unsure.

Bernard implored the students to take a more analytical approach to their profession. Noting that their effort to establish the clinic was commendable, she said that they had to be prepared to face the challenges that came with it.

Referring to comments made about there being too many lawyers in the country, she said that in fact there were too many lawyers entering into private practice guided by the myth that it was more lucrative. “But let me say to you there are many private practitioners who are struggling to eke out a living.”

She cited the work available in other areas of law, including the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Chambers and other areas.

In brief remarks Vice-Chancellor of UG, Dr James Rose, said the Faculty of Law was probably the most proactive at the university.

President of the University of Guyana Law Society (UGLS), Joel Simpson, said the UGLS had formulated this legal-aid advisory programme in an effort to contribute to community development in Guyana through the medium of law.

He added that the programme will give law students the opportunity to apply their academic learning in a real and practical setting.

The clinic will now be a permanent programme in the law faculty. Participating students have already been issued with a copy of the code of conduct for the clinic.

The clinic will be open from Monday to Friday and advice will be given on the areas of contract law, employment, family engagements, divorce, marriage, domestic violence, civil matters, defamation, assault and battery, negligence and general liability of employers. It will also provide services on criminal law, wills, environmental issues, insurance, company law and the constitution.

At present the clinic has no resources. Simpson said there have been pledges from students and other agencies. He said he hoped that the government and foreign and local donor-agencies would assist.

Simpson said the clinic had no computer but hoped to use one belonging to the Law faculty.

He mentioned too that it also did not have a copy of the Laws of Guyana.

The clinic is situated on the ground floor of the Faculty of Law office. (Nigel Williams)