Six months ago, in January 2017, Attorney General Basil Williams made an important announcement, much to the pleasure of many Guyanese, especially law students, that Guyana will establish its own law school by 2018. However, since then there has been no public statement or update on how the project is progressing, leaving many to question the seriousness of the AG and by extension the government in actually seeing the project becoming a reality.
This newspaper had reported on the ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between AG Williams and the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) and Law College of the Americas (LCA) to open the law school here. It was disclosed by the government that the school, which was to be named the JOF Haynes Law School of the Americas (JHLSA), would be established to accommodate students desirous of furthering their studies in the field of law and will also cater for students from the region.
It could be recalled that there were many calls from various stakeholders, especially University of Guyana students themselves, for the government to move in this direction; and it was indeed pleasing to have learnt that the nation was one step closer to seeing this project become a reality.
In any case the agreement between the government of Guyana and the Council of Legal Education to facilitate Guyanese law students to pursue their Legal Education Certificate (LEC) at the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) in Trinidad and Tobago will expire soon and the administration would have been forced to renegotiate another agreement. Considering this factor, one would have hoped that the authorities here would have move with some degree of urgency to complete all the arrangements to set up our own law school in time to cater for the expiration of this previous arrangement with the HWLS.
No one can underestimate the level of preparation needed and the time and resources required before such a project finally comes on stream. There are two main issues that must be considered and would need much effort from key personnel involved to ensure all arrangements are adequately in place. First, the law school must be given the necessary accreditation and recognition so that all graduates are properly licensed to practice law here and elsewhere in the Caribbean. At the moment only graduates from the HWLS are legally recognised to practise at the bar.
Secondly, the school must be equipped with the necessary facilities and personnel such as a library and a qualified staff to deliver the curriculum. It could be recalled that AG Williams had given the necessary assurances that the law school will be accredited and its programme recognised throughout the Region. Assurances were also given that the lecturers contracted will be of high standards to ensure that the students are offered quality legal education. While all of this sounded good on paper, we are not certain as to what progress is being made in relation to achieving these key requirements.
For many years our law students have been faced with very difficult times due to the many hurdles they had to cross in gaining admission to the HWLS. Many had reached frustration point and even had to quit their dreams of becoming certified in the field of law; since not only are the costs associated with studying at HWLS very high, but the process to gain entry was burdensome and not even guaranteed.
Additionally, we had stated before that establishing a law school here will not only ease the level of frustration our students face in gaining admission at HWLS, but it will show the rest of the region that Guyana can also be a leader as it relates to the study of various areas of the law.
The law students of the University of Guyana, including those who are about to graduate and those in the first and second years, are anxiously awaiting further knowledge on the progress of this new institution the AG announced.