There has been an amplified call for the setting up of a local Law School over the past several years and finally the government of Guyana has made a concrete step in the direction of making such an institution a reality.
Yesterday, at the Georgetown Club on Camp Street, Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney-General Basil Williams, on behalf of the government of Guyana signed a Memorandum of Understanding with University College of the Caribbean (UCC) and the Law College of the Americas (LAC).
The Attorney-General said that the MOU will be the embodiment of future engagements. He said that the permission for Guyana to establish a law school was given almost two decades ago. Williams reminded that there has always been a problem with Guyanese nationals being given a place at the Hugh Wooding Law School.
He said that at a recent meeting in Antigua, a collective agreement was signed between the University of Guyana, University of the West Indies and the Council for Legal Education (CLE) limiting the number to 25 Guyanese graduates benefiting from automatic entry to Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS).
According to Williams, there are thousands of Law Degree (LLB) holders in the Caribbean who cannot enter into the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas or the HWLS.
Williams said that it is very important that the law school comes at this time. He said that there will be no question of students being part of the law programme, which is to be called the JOF Haynes Law School of America.
The AG said that he is hoping that the institution can be up and running by 2018, notwithstanding the feasibility study which has to be done.
According to Dr. Trevor Hamilton, Advisor on the Law School venture, the school will operate under the CLE, which will make it a law school regulated by regional oversight similar to the schools in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas.
He added that the school will seek to help persons to be specialised in certain areas, since there are growing sectors within the Caribbean economy such as Environmental Law, Intellectual Property, Civil Aviation, Maritime law and Tax law.
In addition, Hamilton said that the school will focus on providing continuous education for practicing lawyers and judges.
“The school in Guyana is not going to just be training CLEs, because law like any education requires continuing education. I’m sure every lawyer on Croal Street needs continuing education, and I can tell you that every judge needs continuing education, every prosecutor, and therefore that is going to be a major market as well.”
He said that the investment model will take place under a Public-Private Partnership. The model, he said, is structured in such a way that the centre will call for many players. This relates to the economic spin-offs which the school is expected to facilitate.
Hamilton said that his team sees investment to be upwards of US$75M dollars into areas such as accommodation, food supply and infrastructure construction. One of the greatest advantages, as highlighted by Hamilton, is the economic benefit which will accrue from the school’s establishment.
At the end of the day, Hamilton said, the school is going to operate as a business, so it will not be a fiscal burden. He said that it will be beneficial to Guyanese law students, since they can remain at home and have access to a more affordable Legal Education Certificate (LEC) programme.
Also speaking at the event was Professor Dennis Gayle, Executive Chancellor and Interim President of the UCC. He said that the venture will help to bridge the gap between the demand for legal education and the provision of such education.
“One of the advantages of the new JOF Haynes Law School is that it will allow increased access to more law students to have the opportunity to study, given the challenge of space availability that we have observed.”
Representing the Vice-Chancellor of UG was Deputy Vice-Chancellor Barbara Reynolds who said that the school will address one of the major issues precluding law graduates from accessing their LEC, which is the availability of physical space at other institutions.
Fielding questions from the media, the Attorney-General said that government is looking to have the institution located in the Turkeyen area. He could not have provided a figure as to how much money the government will be plugging into the project, but informed the media that the shareholding of the school will be 30 per cent for the government and 70 per cent to the UCC and LAC partners.
He said this is so, since the shareholding was set up in such a way because the investment will primarily be done by the UCC and LAC, whereas Guyana will only be providing the land and other support services.
As it relates to how many students will be catered for, Dr. Hamilton said that the school’s capacity should be able to accommodate about 300 students.
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