Guyana making progress in setting up CLE-approved law school
– following meeting with Council of Legal Education
After years of delay, progress is finally being made in setting up a Council of Legal Education (CLE) approved law school in Guyana, following a meeting between top legal and judicial officials in Guyana and the CLE in Bridgetown, Barbados.
In a statement on Sunday, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall explained that at the meeting with the CLE last week, the Guyana side presented its case for the Council’s law school to be set up in Guyana.
“In his presentation, the Attorney General informed the Council that unlike a proposal made by his predecessor, Basil Williams, SC, which the Council rejected, the Government of Guyana is proposing that the law school be a Council institution to be managed and administered by the CLE but that the Government will provide the land and buildings based upon criteria and specifications set by the Council.”
“This request was favourably considered, and the Council made a decision to write the Government of Guyana shortly, informing of this decision and setting out the criteria and other requirements which the Government will have to satisfy,” the Attorney General said.
It was explained that the initiative merges with the Government of Guyana’s commitment to promoting Guyana as an attractive offshore education destination. According to the AG, the proposed law school is expected to attract regional and international students, while also easing the overloading, particularly at the Hugh Wooding and Norman Manley Law Schools.
At present, the CLE administers legal professional education in the Caribbean, through law schools such as the Hugh Wooding Law School, St Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago; Norman Manley Law School, Kingston, Jamaica; and Eugene Dupuch Law School, Nassau, Bahamas.
“This arrangement is governed by a Treaty which is incorporated by legislation in all member states. Under this arrangement, holders of a recognised Bachelor of Laws degree are admitted to these law schools.”
“Upon the satisfactory completion of a course of study, are issued with a Legal Education Certificate (LEC) which qualifies them to practice before the Courts of Law in Member States. For nearly three decades Guyana has been trying to establish a law school within its jurisdiction.”
During last week’s presentation, Nandlall was supported by acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonnette Cummings-Edwards, who represented the Judiciary, and Attorneys-at-Law Teni Housty and Kamal Ramkarran, representing the Guyana Bar Association. They all supported the Attorney General in presenting Guyana’s case.
Each year, graduates of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Bachelor of Laws (LLB) programmes and the top 25 graduates from the University of Guyana (UG) Law Department gain automatic acceptance to the law schools to read for their LEC. Due to zoning, Guyanese students are accommodated at the law school in Trinidad and Tobago. Those who are not on the list of top 25 graduates and those with non-UWI law degrees can be admitted to law schools if they are successful in the CLE’s annual entrance examination.
Guyana has long been moving to establish its own law school – the Joseph Oscar Fitzclarence Haynes Law School – with UG agreeing to host it at its Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown campus. But it has been denied permission by the CLE which noted that it was agreed that the Council should defer establishing new law schools. This was in late 2017.
As it is, if Guyana goes ahead and establishes its own law school without permission from the CLE, certification from that school would not be recognised in the rest of the Region as it will violate the treaty governing legal education. Every year, Guyanese are faced with enormous financial burdens, including $6,616,548 in tuition/compulsory fees for the two-year programme offered at the law school.
This, coupled with the cost of living in Trinidad and Tobago has deterred many persons from pursuing a legal career. In response to this, the Government of Guyana now offers limited fully-funded scholarships to Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS). These scholarships are open to new and continuing students. To be eligible, applicants must be holders of an LLB with a minimum GPA of 3.3.
The applicant must be under the age of 35 and must have obtained the degree within the last five years. The applicant must also have an acceptance letter from the law school. Present students at the HWLS who wish to apply for the scholarship must have passed year one studies with at least three courses passed with Grade A.