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May 01, 2023

Global Law School Community Unites to Support Ukrainian Law Schools and Students

Jessica Sarnowski

Law professor Catherine Beck was getting ready to teach her Ukrainian law students at Chernivtsi University about US law. But first she had to check the latest news.

"Heavy missile strikes by Russian forces on Ukrainian infrastructure" read the headline in large block font. And that meant that, once again, Catherine had to check her email before class to see if any of her students would be able to get on Zoom during the next hour.

Beck, a Professor of Legal English at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, volunteered her time during the Fall 2022 semester to teach an online legal English course to graduate law students in Ukraine. This course was part of a larger collaborative initiative between Ukrainian law schools and the international law school community, an initiative which grew out of relationships formed over the past decade thanks to seeds planted by groups such as the Legal Writing Institute’s Global Legal Writing Skills Committee and the Global Legal Skills Conference community.

The purpose was to foster cultural exchange, and the result was the Global Legal Skills Virtual Workshop Series, made possible with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Justice for All Activity. The workshop’s three short webinars, held over the summer of 2022, brought together law faculty from Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union in an exchange of ideas on how to best support Ukrainian law schools, faculty, and students following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The primary needs identified during these sessions included Legal English courses, guest lectures on a range of topics, and support for Ukrainian legal academics to edit and publish their work in English-language law journals. One of the outputs from the workshop series was a Google spreadsheet organized by Artem Shaipov of the USAID Justice for All Activity, in which participating law faculty could input their names, contact info, and ways they could be of help. This approach enabled individual follow-ups with the participants to match the local needs with international expertise. Law faculty from participating Ukrainian universities then reviewed the information and directly contacted non-Ukrainian law faculty based on their perceived needs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic really opened people’s minds to the opportunities for online legal education in ways that didn’t exist before,” said David Austin of California Western School of Law, whose conversations with Ukrainian law professor Olga Grishyna helped lead to the idea for the summer 2022 webinars. “Following the start of the war, there was a recognized need to help support Ukrainian law schools to prepare more lawyers and legal scholars to develop a society deeply rooted in a culture of rule of law.”

The Global Legal Skills community collaboration led to approximately 30 US law professors providing more than 60 online courses or guest lectures at thirteen different Ukrainian universities during the Fall 2022 semester. Course and lecture topics requested by Ukrainian law schools included environmental law, international arbitration, war crimes and international tribunals, and fundamentals of the US legal system.

One such collaboration was a 10-week online course titled “Reading US Cases” taught to graduate law students at the Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University. Developed and taught by Stephen Horowitz, Georgetown Law Professor of Legal English, and Daniel Edelson, Director of Academic Success at Seton Hall Law School and founder of USLawEssentials, the course used an online curriculum to familiarize students with U.S.-style common law cases as well as the language, reading strategies, and processes that are fundamental to the way US law is learned and applied.

“I was amazed that students were showing up for class online despite what I was reading and seeing in the news about attacks on Ukraine,” Horowitz reflected. “My understanding is that mentally it has been very stressful and hard to focus on studies. But they seemed to also appreciate a chance once a week to learn and think about something removed from the war.” Horowitz added that one of the more challenging days was when students and faculty at Chernivtsi learned that Associate Professor Serhiy Vasylyovych Misevich, an esteemed faculty member who was serving as a reserve officer, had died in battle the day before.

“Given the larger context, we initially felt a bit self-conscious discussing topics like what a case brief is or whether an advertisement in a newspaper could constitute a contract,” added Edelson. “But based on our interactions with the students and the course feedback, it seemed that the course was in part a welcome distraction and an outlet. And we tried to bear in mind that a little small talk each time about the Ukrainian language or the LA Lakers was in some ways as valuable as the course content.”

Another effective collaboration was between Zaporizhzhia National University and Professor Robin Juni of George Washington Law, who gave a guest lecture on environmental law. Faculty and students of the Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University and Vasyl’ Stus Donetsk National University also joined this lecture. “Prof. Juni’s lectures inspire [one] to study more deeply progressive practices of environmental law implementation, in particular in the area of atmospheric air protection from pollution,” said Associate Professor Oleksii Makarenkov. Professor Tetyana Kolomoets, Dean of the Zaporizhzhia National University Law Faculty, also expressed gratitude to Juni for teaching a course useful to both teachers and students and noted that Juni’s lectures helped re-establish a lecture series with US specialists that had run for many years until Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.

The US-Ukraine collaborations are expected to continue into the Spring 2023 semester and beyond. “This is just the beginning,” stated Professor Mark Wojcik of the University of Illinois Chicago Law School and a point person for the Global Legal Skills community. “We expect there will continue to be significant legal education needs that we can all help with for at least several years out from whenever the war hopefully ends.”

Based on the response thus far from the Global Legal Skills community, ample seeds for future cross-cultural collaboration have been planted and will continue to grow.

“The Global Legal Skills Virtual Workshop Series united legal scholars and educators and provided an opportunity to create cooperation between universities from EU, the US and Ukraine,” said Iryna Kuderska, law lecturer at the National Technical University of Ukraine. “Thanks to this cooperation, students and teachers of our university have the opportunity to get new knowledge from legal scholars and practitioners from foreign universities regarding the characteristics of various branches of law in the US. We are very grateful for the opportunities provided and look forward to participating in such events in the future.”

For more information about the Global Legal Skills initiative or to get involved in helping, contact USAID Justice for All Activity Legal Advisor Artem Shaipov at [email protected].

About USAID Assistance to Ukraine:

During Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, USAID has provided $13 billion in direct budget support and $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance to meet the urgent needs of Ukraine and its people. Also during the war, all of USAID’s more than 40 development activities, including the USAID Justice for All Activity, have continued to operate, helping meet needs on the ground while laying the foundation for Ukraine’s successful recovery from the war and its continued advancement as a sovereign, independent, democratic, and prosperous society. To learn more about USAID assistance to Ukraine visit or follow USAID on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @USAIDUkraine.

    Jessica Sarnowski

    Environmental Thought Leader

    Jessica Sarnowski is an established environmental thought leader who has over 15 years of public and private sector experience in environmental policy and law. She received her Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School, Master of Laws degree in Environmental Law from The George Washington University Law School, and 120-Hour TEFL/TESOL Certificate from The University of Arizona. Jessica is now a freelance writer for select clients, such as The Ocean Foundation. She is actively working on a course for the National Technical University of Ukraine: Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute as part of the ongoing collaboration between US law schools and Ukrainian universities. 

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