ABA/CEELI-USAID sponsored Legal Education Reform Project

The Legal Education Reform Project - the most comprehensive program aimed at reforming legal education funded by USAID, has been implemented in Azerbaijan. A pilot three-pronged program in Legal Education Reform addresses curriculum, teaching methodology, and administrative and library reforms at two Azerbaijani law schools including Western University with the goal of expanding the reforms to other law schools in future years. The purpose of the program is to place a greater awareness on legal education and equip the next generation of lawyers with a better understanding of domestic and international law as well as practical lawyering skills.

Teaching Methodology prong

ABA/CEELI engaged a short-term teaching methodologies expert, Professor Tony Winer, from the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. Professor Winer initially came to Azerbaijan in March and then again in May to work with selected faculty.

During the month of May, 2004, members of the law faculty at Western University participated in a program sponsored by the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative of the American Bar Association ABA/CEELI and US Agency for International Development (USAID). The program is designed to acquaint Azeri law professors with classroom teaching techniques generally used by law professors in the United States.

The program focused on three subject-matter areas: Criminal Law, Environmental Law and Private International Law. For each subject-matter area, the participating faculty studied and reviewed complementary issues in both U.S. law and Azeri law. The participants had reviewed and studied a set of comparative-law materials compiled by the ABA/CEELI staff illustrating these selected issues.

The program activities demonstrated the kinds of discussions and presentations used in U.S. law school classrooms. These activities featured detailed question-and-answer conversations among participants that develop detailed factual review and complex analytical inquiry. They had also involved illustrate ways in which hypothetical fact patterns can be designed to encourage deep consideration of the interpretive issues raised by the legal sources included in the program.

On May Azeri law professors from Western University completed a rigorous one-month program in classroom teaching methodology. The participants were awarded by certificates of completion.

Curriculum development prong

Dr. Phil Roberts, JD, PhD, a Curriculum specialist was hired from the University of Wyoming. In March and again June, the Curriculum specialist evaluated curriculum, worked closely with Faculty and Administrators, and made recommendations for reforms at Western University. Two core courses, Environmental Law and Criminal Law, deemed appropriate for curriculum reform, were identified. Selection of core courses was based on faculty interest, the amount of information covered by the course, and the availability of existing teaching and reference materials. The Legal Education Reform Project team at CEELI along with the University’ administration met with the Ministry of Education and gained their approval of the program. A new law school will be launched at Western University from September 2004. The curriculum development specialist provides Western University with options with the aim of efficient organization of the law school curricula.

Library reform

Library expert Elisabeth Larson-Goldberg from Indiana University, Bloomington evaluated library resources at Western University in June 2004. She made recommendations as to how enrich the law library resources, and make it suitable for the for the law school.

Legal Clinics

In June 2004 two Russian-experts will conduct training on clinical legal education. The training will cover aims, content and forms of clinical legal education, curricula and teaching methodology at legal clinics, and other important issues in order to help the University faculty build a legal clinic.