UG Law Society urges speedy resolution of law school impasse

University of Guyana Law Society (UGLS) President Delonté De Clou

PRESIDENT of the University of Guyana Law Society (UGLS) believes that a joint venture will better benefit Guyana in the establishment of its own law school, even as he anticipates that the similar standards of the Caribbean will be realised here.

Weighing in on the ongoing engagements between the government and the Council of Legal Education (CLE), UGLS President, Delonté De Clou spoke to the Guyana Chronicle on Tuesday. His comments were made in light of the recent unfolding situation whereby the government-submitted feasibility study on the construction of a local law school was said to be non-compliant with the treaty which established the CLE.

This was relayed by CLE Chairman Reginald Armour on September 8, when he found issue with the government and its joint-venture partners – the Law School of the Americas (LCA) and the University College of the Caribbean (UCC). “At the moment, I don’t see that a joint venture agreement can be presented for approval to Council within the treaty… so the concept of other persons forming a law school and bringing them to the Council for approval doesn’t fit within the treaty and that is one of the points we have made to the attorney general, that his government needs to reconsider in terms of the proposal that has been brought to us so far,” Armour had explained to reporters.

On the issue, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams had stated that it is a matter of interpretation. After outlining the guidelines for the feasibility study, he said that the CLE has now taken issue with the model which the Government of Guyana intends to use to establish its own law school.

De Clou said that while he understands the concerns of the CLE, he believes that a joint venture may prove to be better for the country at the moment. However, he added that ultimately, what ensues is up to the government, but should nonetheless see relieved, the financial, educational and social challenges faced by LLB students in pursuing studies at the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago.

“The government should continue doing what it’s doing which is jointly with the University College of the Caribbean as well as the Law College of the Americas on the basis that, together, it will be more sustainable for our economy, in general, to have other partners. But when we’re talking about going on a solo venture, I am not privy to the thinking of the government and I would not want to speak contrary to what the position is in terms of what the government decides to do,” he said.

De Clou is positive that Guyana has ample legal luminaries willing and able to provide their expertise to Guyanese students, naming Justice Duke E.E. Pollard as one in the lot. The UGLS president also addressed the current challenges faced by the non-existence of a local law school and the limited quota of 25 Guyanese per academic year that are allowed to attend Hugh Wooding.

“When you look at the financial feasibility in relations to the Hugh Wooding Law School and Guyanese students, we have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to be able to graduate…it’s just inequitable in that sense. We still have to have to pay for dorm, etcetera so it’s very hard on Guyanese students,” he posited.

Being UGLS president for one year and member of the Association of Caribbean Students for Equal Access to the Legal Profession (ACSEAL), De Clou also advocates for greater accessibility to law schools in the Region.

He noted problems which exist in Guyana as well as in countries such as Jamaica, where he said only students of the University of the West Indies admitted to the Norman Manley law school. “We should free up accessibility to law schools throughout the Caribbean and in this we can have more legal scholars and create the equity in regards to general understanding of law and practice,” he said, later adding:
“The process needs to be open, we need to have more visibility and we believe that the issue with entrance exams and the barriers in entering into these law schools is very problematic to continue doing what we’ve been doing [especially] with the 25 limit.”
Despite the current challenges, De Clou hopes that the level of professionalism and education which will be provided at the school, once established, will be of the highest standard and no different from the Caribbean Region. “We hope to see the same standard of education and teaching that’s available throughout the Caribbean. When you look at Eugene Dupuch, Norman Manley or you look at Hugh Wooding, we’re aiming for the same standards as any other law school and, of course, an important part is the financial feasibility of [attending the school],” he said.