Guyana inched closer towards establishing its own Law School today, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Guyana and the University College of the Caribbean and Law College of the Americas.
The MoU has formalised the Public-Private partnership for the establishment of the Law School which will carry the name of the late outstanding Guyanese Jurist, JOF Haynes.
Guyana’s Attorney General, Senior Counsel Basil Williams explained that the partnership will see the investors holding a 70% interest in the Law School, while the Government of Guyana will get the remaining 30%.
Guyana’s contribution towards the establishment of the school will be the land for the construction of the school.
Attorney General Williams said the Turkeyen area is being looked at for the possible location. The University of Guyana is located at Turkeyen.
He said the establishment of the Law School in Guyana will ensure that Guyanese Law students no longer have to worry about enough positions not be available for them to complete their legal education studies.
As it is right now, only the top 25 University of Guyana law graduates every year are allowed to complete their Certificate in Legal Education studies at the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago.
When the local law school comes on stream, all graduates will be able to seek a place at the school to complete their legal studies so that they could be called to the Bar in Guyana or across CARICOM.
Mr. Williams reminded that Guyana got permission from the Council of Legal Education to establish its own Law School two decades ago. He said he decided to move ahead with the plan to get the law school here as Guyanese students continued to complain about their plight of getting into the Hugh Wooding Law School and the hefty price tag attached to that school and studying in a foreign country.
“We have hundreds of LLB holders and graduates who cannot enter into the Norman Manley or Hugh Wooding Law Schools, not to even mention Eugene Dupuch in Bahamas because its so expensive. And therefore it is very important that this question be addressed and so we are happy”, Mr. Williams said.
He said the Law School will be on the same level with the other regional law schools since they all fall under the Council of Legal Education. The Guyana law school will be following the guidelines of that body.
Dr. Trevor Hamilton of the University College of the Caribbean noted that the law school will go beyond just preparing attorneys to be called to the bar. He said as new economies emerge in the Caribbean, modern law practices and studies have emerged and the law school in Guyana will cater for that.
He said “you didn’t about cyber crime 30 or 40 years ago and you didn’t hear about environmental law about 30 and 40 years ago, you didn’t hear about sports law. I mean, people like Usain Bolt had to get a foreign lawyer to deal with his contracts. You didn’t hear about the creative industry, 30 or 40 years ago, intellectual property and music and those things. We didn’t have those industry and those are helping to form the new economy…the lawyers that we want to produce will be lawyers who can create major changes and help to accelerate modernization.”
Dr. Hamilton said the JOF Haynes Law School will also cater for continuing education for all persons in the legal profession, ranging from lawyers to judges.
On the issue of cost, he noted that while there has been no finalizing of the price students will have to pay, prospective students could be assured that completing their legal education in Guyana will be less costly that at the other law schools across the region.
The University of Guyana has welcomed the move to establish the law school in Guyana.
Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University, Dr. Barbara Reynolds said for too long Guyanese law graduates have been precluded from completing the Legal Education Certificate on the basis of physical space not being available rather than on merit.
“There is something in that narrative that has not been quite right for a long time and if the JOF Haynes Law School will reverse this situation, that in itself must be something positive for our graduates and for anyone who seeks to be admitted to the bar”, she noted.
Chairman of the Law College of the Americas, Courtney Winter, believes that the partnership will revolutionize legal education in Guyana and the Caribbean as historical practices are challenged.
Law students have been given the assurance that when the school opens its doors, they will get the best education being offered on the same level with the other law schools and well qualified lecturers will be in place.