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Law schools needed in Guyana, two other countries but Council of Legal Education must become regulator, says Caricom legal education survey

Attorney General Basil Williams

At least three new law schools, including one in Guyana, should be established, but the Caribbean’s Council for Legal Education (CLE) should regulate instead of manage all such institutions across the region, according to a survey report on Legal Education in the Caribbean.

Funded by Canada and executed by the University of the West Indies and the Improved Access to Justice in the Commonwealth Caribbean (IMPACT Justice) project, the final report that was delivered in February, 2018 says “new law schools should be set up as soon as possible” as part of University of Technology in Jamaica, University of Guyana, and Antigua and Barbuda.

The reason for recommending the establishment of the new law schools, according to the report, is mainly for the non-University of the West Indies (UWI) Bachelor of Laws Degree graduates whose degrees are are equivalent to the UWI Law Degree in the eyes of the CLE.

Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Education, Basil Williams told reporters on Monday that his country’s position that a law school is needed is “bolstered” by the Canadian-funded survey report. “We really need a law school in Guyana and against the backdrop also that the tuition fees this year have been increased at Hugh Wooding (Law School) and they are now 97,000 TT (Trinidad and Tobago) dollars, that is well over three million Guyana dollars,” he said. Williams said the proposed Joseph Haynes Law School is aimed at building capacity for oil and gas, and development that is based on environmental protection and renewable energy.

The Attorney General said the survey report has been circulated to governments and very soon he would be presenting his copy to Cabinet after which Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders would eventually deliberate on the report. “I support that recommendation that it should be regulatory and not really be involved in the day-to-day operations… because of our experiences right now. We have been reduced to twenty-five students. We used to Jamaicans, Belizeans studying with us. The decisions of the CLE have excluded them and Trinidad, and Jamaica have been churning out lawyers- over 200 a year. We are limited to 25 and under and then the cost imposed on the twenty-five to actually go through the process is so prohibitive so we need to ease this hardship on our students,” said Williams when asked by Demerara Waves Online News.

The Survey Report recommends that talks be held with the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) headquarters, UWI or other regional organisation to be the temporary home for CLE as a regulator, licensor and accreditation body

With Guyana already having signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of the Caribbean and the Law Colleges of the Americas for the establishment of a law school in Guyana, the Attorney General said the parties were working on a shareholders agreement and a business plan, including a feasibility study by the end of April. He said after those are completed, Guyana would meet the CLE to discuss those documents.

On the recommendation that the CLE should evolve into an licensor, regulator and accreditation agency, the Survey Report recommended that the Guyana law school be governed by CLE rules. “It is therefore recommended that as a matter of urgency, discussions be held with the government of Guyana with a view to establishing a law school that would be regulated and licensed by the Council in its new proposed role,” the document states.

The report adds that the proposal by Guyana to set up its law school outside Treaty that governs legal education in the Caribbean points to the “pressing need for the Council to rethink its role and function, particularly given that other jurisdictions have also signalled their intention to set up law schools outside of the legal framework of the Council if the issue of access to practise law in the region is not addressed in a comprehensive and meaningful and timely manner.”

Currently, the CLE runs the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad, the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in The Bahamas.