Category Archives: UG – Law Students / UG Law Division

UG symposium zeroes in on need for local law school

The common discussion thread was the establishment of a local law school when Moot Court Guyana convened a stirring symposium venued in the Education Lecture Theatre of the University of Guyana (UG) on Tuesday, which saw the attendance and input of a wide cross-section of local legal minds and even a few from the Caribbean, among others.
An abundance of recommendations and opinions were forthcoming, all of which are expected to help guide the way forward as it relates to the attaining of legal education in Guyana which has recently been gaining some controversial attention.
Moreover, the notion of establishing a local law school was supported by Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, who at a previous forum had insisted that such an undertaking in Guyana would not be economically feasible. Nandlall, at the symposium on Tuesday, was reminded of his previous utterance in this regard by a young lawyer in training who demanded that the Attorney General outline the “true” position of Government.
According to Nandlall, Government is committed to supporting the establishment of a local law school, providing that it is done under the auspices of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) so that it will be a regional initiative ensuring that “Guyanese alone will not come here.”
“We cannot pursue an agenda that can be regarded or can be construed or in fact be insular. We will work with the process as far as possible (but) if we see that the process doesn’t serve our best interest well then we may be forced to take insular positions, and I am hoping we don’t have to resort to those mechanisms,” said Nandlall.
The CLE was created by an Agreement signed in 1971 by Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and UG. It was established to provide training in the Region (rather than in Britain) for lawyers wishing to practise in the Region.
The Council currently operates three law schools: the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad – both established in 1973 – and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas which was established in 1998.
However, regardless of the direction embraced by Guyana, Nandlall emphasised that it must be one that is in the best interest of the students and by extension the country. As such, he noted that focus must be on guaranteeing a quality of legal education that is relevant, affordable and accessible.  And quality legal education, Nandlall noted, must be one that “will make our students understand their roles and functions in society, the social institutional role of the law; the social institutional role of the lawyer to society, to democracy, (and) to the rule of law; the importance of the interconnectivity of all these concepts to the economic and social advancement of our people and our country….The solution that we will pursue here in Guyana must be one that will capture all of those.”
Moreover, he amplified that, like the UG law programme which is recognised across the world, the Legal Education Programme which emanates from the CLE is recognised by the best universities in the world, by every bar in the United States and elsewhere. As such he stressed the need for quality control, pointing out that “education without integrity or a certificate without integrity is not worth the paper it is written on.”
According to the Attorney General, who attended the forum in the capacity of a panellist, “a legal education in my opinion is valuable as a stepping stone to so many other disciplines that one may wish to pursue.”
Review of legal education

A section of the gathering at the forum on Tuesday.

And in order to examine the future of legal education in these parts, Nandlall disclosed that a study to review legal education is underway, an undertaking that is expected to be funded by an organisation out of Barbados which is financed through a grant from the Canadian Government. “Funding is always lacking and once you already have a source of funding it will augur well for expediency of the exercise being undertaken,” the Attorney General added.
The review, according to him, is expected to follow on the heels of the Caricom Heads of Government meeting set to commence on July 1 in Antigua, a forum which will address the concerns relating to legal education in the Caribbean.
Understandably, the review will also address this issue even taking into consideration the short and long term future of the graduates of the UG law programme.
Although based on an agreement between UG, UWI and the CLE the top 25 graduates of the local law programme are automatically granted placement at the Hugh Wooding Law School, the placements of the 2013 graduates were however under threat and therefore required intervention from Government. The matter was therefore discussed at a previously convened Caricom Heads of Government meeting after which it was taken up with the CLE.  An eventual resolution was derived whereby the stipulated 25 local students of the 2013 programme were granted placements for the upcoming academic year and an additional 10 international students will also be granted placement at law schools within their respective zones.
But according to Nandlall, “I am hoping that while the review is being undertaken we will have a short term solution, I am also expecting at the same time that the review will provide Guyana with a comprehensive solution to its problem.”
He however noted that Guyana is not in the existing dilemma in isolation even as he pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago, which is much more endowed in terms of resources, is faced with a similar challenge in spite of the fact that the Hugh Wooding Law School is located there. “In fact their (Trinidad and Tobago) Government is now completing a building that is earmarked to house a law school either under the aegis of the Council of Legal Education or not, because they have already begun discussions with organisations who administer the legal education certificate in the United Kingdom and to have some arrangement arrived at that would accredit their institution.”
But it was Justice Duke Pollard of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) who queried the possible outcome of the comprehensive review touted by the Attorney General. He, in his contribution to the forum argued, “The CLE itself is the culmination of a comprehensive review of legal education. Where is the CLE now? In total disarray!”
Justice Pollard recalled too that it was a comprehensive review in 1989 that the ‘Sonny’ Ramphal Commission was birthed which, according to him, made a lot of concrete recommendations for a Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), a Caricom Competitive Commission and the CCJ. “Where are these institutions today? How successful are they? What confidence has the Region shown in having these institutions? What is the commitment and the loyalty of the state of Caricom to the CCJ and the CSME and to the Caricom Commission?” questioned Justice Pollard as he theorised that they have all had similar outcomes. And given the track record of the aforementioned institutions, he hinted to the possibility that a comprehensive review may not be the ideal way forward to address the future of legal education in Guyana.
Government’s obligation
And while Attorney-at-Law Teni Housty vocalised his conviction that local law students must be able to take responsibility for themselves first before they source relevant support systems to aid them along, yet another Attorney-at-Law, Basil Williams, insisted that care must be taken to ensure that law does not become an ‘elitist’ profession. He pointed to the need to urgently address “whether we should have a local law school, or should our students be visited every year with this uncertainty; the stress, the anxiety of not knowing whether they are on or not…What will happen is that the law programme will become ‘elitist ’ and I believe the Government, this Government of the day owes its people an obligation to ensure that this doesn’t occur,” warned a very vocal Williams. Among the panellists at Tuesday’s symposium was Senior Lecturer of UG’s Law Programme, Christopher Ram, who recommended to the organisers that the outcome be used to formulate a policy with which students can approach the administration and the Faculty of Law Department.
Also gracing the panellist table was President of the Bar Association, Ronald Burch-Smith, who in his remarks sought to inform the law students in attendance, “You are responsible for your own future not just in terms of what you do in the class room but how you organise yourselves…”
Noticeably absent from the planned panellist contingent were CLE Chairperson, Ms. Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Chief Justice (Ag), Carl Singh.
The symposium was held in collaboration with the University of Guyana Law Society and the University of Guyana Student Society with support from UG’s Department of Law. The forum was moderated by lecturer within the Faculty of Law, Ms. Christine McGowan.

Does Mr. Freddie Kissoon stands with us or against us?

Dear Editor,
I refer to Freddie Kissoon’s letter captioned “I can’t recall seeing Sherod Duncan in the protest but”, published in your news papers on May 25, 2014.
Firstly, I believe that Mr. Kissoon will give me the benefit of the doubt that I was a little more than “sympathetic” about his dismissal from the University’s employ, but matched intolerance for injustice with action in a public show of my discontent.
Secondly, I would not engage a discussion on the most popular student president, having served as the helm of the University of Guyana Students’ Society (UGSS) my view is immediately jaundiced, perhaps.
I would state only here that when the young flower we had in Yohance Dogulas was plucked prematurely from bloom it was a heavy time for all. I don’t how I ended up in the march from UG to the length of Brickdam and at the nights of vigil on Sheriff Street. But having opportunity to size up my colleague I would argue that Robert Bourne leading the Society at such a tumultuous time showed tremendous fortitude; little in student life prepares you for such a circumstance.
But I do not want to distract too long from the issue at hand: the severance of the special arrangement for admittance of the top twenty-five law students from the University of Guyana (UG) into the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS).
Mr. Kissoon’s suggests that, “nowhere in his letter did he agree that the focus should now be for law students to pressure the Government of Guyana in having our own law school or reinstitute Guyana’s stipend to the Council for Legal Education,” referring to my letter of May 23, 2014 generously published by your newspapers.
I refer Mr. Kissoon to my letter of April 7, 2014, “The time has come for a local law school” also published by Kaieteur News. I am, additionally, in the process of rationalizing the Government’s position at the time regarding the withdrawal the “stipend” and if it has had a causal effect on where we are today.
But more than that, this situation offers us a teachable moment and a chance at something historic in setting up our own law school. Mr. Kissoon does not have to stand for us, what I would like to know is if Mr. Kissoon stands with us or against us? We have begun a petition to encourage the Government of Guyana to make concrete steps and a strong commitment towards the establishment of our own law school. I invite Mr. Kissoon to stand in solidarity with us and sign our petition, found here: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/government-of-guyana-to-establish-a-local-law-school.
Sherod Duncan,
Student-at-Law, Class of 2014

Perhaps the earlier proposal for a local law school should be updated and retabled

Dear Editor,

I read with keen interest the article published in the Guyana Chronicle on May 26, captioned ‘UG students can be accommodated at Eugene Dupuch Law School.’

Firstly there is an information deficit as concerns the general issue, especially information flowing towards law students on this matter of admission to law school. The first time we heard an official word on the dilemma was in March 2014 when Attorney General Anil Nandlall held a meeting, but anything else that we have learnt has been through the media to date.

Secondly, as concerns the accommodation at the Eugene Dupuch Law School (HDLS) that is a welcome alternative arrangement, but before we start celebrating we have to factor in cost. The AG himself said to us at the March meeting that HDLS costs twice that of Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) where Guyanese nationals are zoned to attend, and additionally the living expenses are close to tuition cost. Is it possible that additional costs in comparison to HWLS are subsidized by government?

And on the same point, paraphrased words in the Chronicle article attributed to the Chairperson of the Council of Legal Education, Ms Jacqueline Samuels-Browne, read, that Council would have to know, as soon as possible, how many UG graduates would be interested in attending that law school. This is a matter of urgency for both the Chairperson and the law students. In the latter case we request information as to what exactly is going to be the arrangements with HDLS.

I hasten to add that whatever arrangements are arrived at with HWLS and HDLS the matter as it concerns the facility law students engage for the final aspect of their legal training begs for a long-term solution. That solution, I humbly submit, has to be a local law school.

The idea of a local law school was on the table as early as 2002 and its benefits were enumerated in a concept paper of that period. That concept paper was the work a task force, I am advised, which included the then Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard; University of Guyana Vice-Chancellor, James Rose; Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Mark Kirton; a representative of the Bar Association; a member of the AG’s chambers; and the Librarian of the University of Guyana.

Some of the considerations for the local law school included: “The fees would be lower than the US$10 000 year at HWLS. And the local law school could concentrate on teaching practice skills in advocacy, legal drafting and computer research as obtains in England and Australia, rather than the teaching of substantive law; that the teaching of substantive law should be done at the university and the UG LLB programme would be adjusted to accommodate this.

“A number of savings could be realised as a result of the sharing of some resources with the UG LLB programme. He noted that the two bodies could share facilities such as a Resource Centre and a Library with the addition of ‘Practice Texts.’

“Projected revenue from fees and the diversion of the grant which would otherwise go to the LLB programme, to the law school, should more than cover recurrent expenses. The government grants to the LLB programme were intended to pay UWI for second marking and monitoring its examinations under the collaborative agreement with UWI and the CLE.”

It would appear that the avenue of a local law school was well thought out and perhaps the proposal could be updated and retabled.

It would be remiss of me not to recognize the efforts of the Government of Guyana as “…the Government continues in its effort to seek a resolution of the impasse affecting the University of Guyana law students from gaining access into the Hugh Wooding Law School, Trinidad,” according to the AG in the Chronicle article.

Suffice to say that I noted in the article there is a scheduled meeting between the Government and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community tentatively for June 2014. I suggest with humility that, because of the nature of the meeting proposed, notwithstanding its quality, that our elected student representative of the University of Guyana Law Society (UGLS) Saeed Hamid is also included in the delegation.

 Yours faithfully,

Sherod Avery Duncan

Law student

Class of 2014

UG students can be accommodated at Eugene Dupuch Law School

…Council of Legal Education to meet with stakeholders

THE Chairperson of the Council of Legal Education, Ms. Jacqueline Samuels-Browne, QC, has pronounced on the decision not to automatically place 25 University of Guyana Bachelor of Law (LLB) students at the Hugh Wooding Law School.

And, in her response on May 2, she stated that some UG graduates can be accommodated at the Eugene Dupuch Law School in Nassau Bahamas.

She said the Council would have to know, as soon as possible, how many UG graduates would be interested in attending that law school.
She said: “If the capacity constraints of the Hugh Wooding Law School and the Norman Manley Law School are to be addressed in a meaningful way, the law schools must receive capital injections to fund the expansion of the physical plants and the full-time staff complement as a matter of urgency.

“We have no sources of significant funding other than from the contributing governments, and I would certainly invite the governments to give immediate and positive consideration to this pressing need.”

REVISED
Samuels-Browne added that the automatic admission is something that may have to be revisited, particularly as the quota system on which it was premised has been effectively abandoned.
She said, “The Hugh Wooding Law School has reiterated that, until we know how many graduates of the University of the West Indies will exercise their right to seek admission to that law school, it cannot be determined how many additional students can be accommodated.

“As you know, they have priority over other applicants. This is one of the matters which may have to be revisited, particularly as the quota system on which it was premised has been effectively abandoned.”

The automatic admission was an arrangement that existed under a collaborative agreement between the University of the West Indies, the Council of Legal Education, and UG. The agreement has expired, and has not been renewed for the year 2014.
The Chairperson of the Council has since requested a meeting with a delegation from the Council and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

A letter from Dr. Gonsalves, the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), had prompted the response from the Chairperson at the beginning of April.

The Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM recently concluded its 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting, held on March 10 and 11 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where President Donald Ramotar raised the matter.

Discussion on the issue resulted in Gonsalves sending a letter to the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, which said: “This matter is of grave concern to Heads of Government, as it effectively results in Guyanese students having no access to the law schools, notwithstanding that they would have entered the UG Programme in the expectation that at least the top 25 graduates were entitled to automatic admission.

“It is also of tremendous concern that, in the current scenario, admission to the practice of Law in the CLE member countries is restricted to the graduates of one institution.

“The implications of the decision by the Council and the law schools are far-reaching in terms of the provision of legal education services and access to the legal profession, in the context of liberalisation of trade in services, and in a Community which has established a single market and free movement of service providers and skilled nationals.

“…I write, as Chair of the Conference, to request that the Council accommodates the automatic admission of the top 25 Guyanese graduates for the academic year 2014-2015. I also draw to your attention that the Conference, representing the Heads of Government of the parties to the CLE Agreement, has mandated that the Council completes a thorough review of legal education in the Community before the next academic year, to resolve the deeper issues concerning legal education, including access and the role and function of the Council of Legal Education.”

GOV’T COMMITTED
Guyana’s Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, in a statement, indicated that President Donald Ramotar has already made contact with Gonsalves and requested an early meeting.

He said, “Arrangements are currently being made for that meeting to take place at the earliest possible day in June 2014.”

The Government of Guyana will be represented at that meeting by the AG, by an executive member of the Council of Legal Education of the West Indies, and by personnel from the University of Guyana.

Nandlall said, “The Government remains committed to pursue most resolutely every possible avenue, and resort to every option available in order to protect the welfare of our students and the future of the law programme at the University of Guyana.
“…the Government continues in its effort to seek a resolution of the impasse affecting the University of Guyana law students from gaining access into the Hugh Wooding Law School, Trinidad.”

The 2014/2015 academic year will start on September 15, 2014. Prior to the start of the school year, the Admissions Board Examinations are scheduled for June, 2014, and the Admissions Board meeting is slated for August, 2014.

(By Vanessa Narine)

UG law students have legitimate expectation of admittance to law school

I REFER to an article captioned, “UG law graduates to play second fiddle to UWI’s” published in Sunday Stabroek, May 18, 2014, in which commentary is attributed to yours truly, and which I stand by. I humbly ask that the following be added for a broader discussion still on the subject matter.

Mid-April our learned Head of the University of Guyana (UG) Department of Law, Mr. Sheldon McDonald, sought opportunity to inform media present at a handing over of law texts to the UG Library by the KIVO Foundation that: “The spin that is being placed on the current situation as regards the (UG law) students who are going to Law School is slightly unfortunate. The Attorney General (Hon. Anil Nandlall) has announced that the Heads of Government have taken a decision on the issue that was taken to them by the Government of Guyana. It is a decision of the highest order of the Community determining certain actions from the Council for Legal Education (CLE), a creature of the Community. The Chairman of the Community, the Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves carried out those instructions, yet we still see bylines like ‘UG students still in limbo.’
Given the trajectory of Stabroek News reporting and the new developments reported on this situation I wonder whether the CARICOM Community has entered into a new phase of how organs, “creature(s) of the Community” engage the Community on matters that have been “determined” by the Community.

Secondly, it is my humble submission that even though in the regular order of business the CLE’s arrangement with UG for the top 25 law graduates was only granted a year’s extension to cover the previous year and would have self-determined in 2014, the conduct of LEC/UWI/HWLS by the decision by the CLE to determine the automatic placements in February of 2014 was unreasonable under the pervading circumstance.

I humbly submit that after the application process to Hugh Wooding Law School was opened to all, including UG law graduates, it created legitimate expectation that the arrangement of automatic placements would subsist and those successful at the Entrance Examinations also would be allowed admittance.

Additionally, the open and close of the application process; duly responded to by UG students, as well created and cemented a legitimate expectation that those applications would be considered on the merits of Grade Point Average (GPA) and Entrance Examination grades and not on the basis of space, as is the present conundrum with a preference for UWI law graduates first.

One wonders if there is not a series of injustices being meted out here, and whether, by their conduct the CLE is stopped from denying UG graduates admittance only on the basis on space when the long standing practice is to judge the applications based on GPA attained and Entrance Examination grades.
SHEROD AVERY DUNCAN
Student-at-Law, Class of 2014
President, UGSS, 2009-2010