Legal education reforms must be responsive to professional risk – Prof. Stychin

Professor Carl Stychin

Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS), University of London, Professor Carl Stychin, believes that while reforms are imminent in the country’s legal education system, they should be responsive to professional risk factors.

Having followed closely the history of Ghana’s legal system over the years, he said the legal education structure has gone through several reforms to reach its current state – which is highly regarded as one of the best on the continent, but contemporary innovations and trends mean new reforms are required.

The IALS professor opined that any proposed legislation on legal education must provide a framework that picks from best practices around the world – and he agreed that the current system wherein students find it extremely difficult to gain admission into the Ghana School of Law is not the best and requires some reforms to address contemporary challenges in the profession.

“I would never argue for a kind of wild-west, cowboy model of completely deregulated law education or an ‘anything goes’ system, because that is not beneficial for students, teachers and the profession. From my experience in education, if students do not have access to perfectly correct information, they may have access to incorrect information. So, we do need regulation to protect them and try to make sure they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous providers.

“However, we do need to create a regulatory model that fits the system and regulates proportionately to the risk involved, and this is the kind of regulatory system I would urge government to consider. This will create a dynamic system wherein new providers are coming into the market, otherwise the established old providers have very little incentive to be dynamic, improve and innovate,” he said.

Explaining why government should make it possible for more people to access legal or any other form of professional education, as against the fear of producing not-fit-for-purpose professionals, he said: “You may plant many flowers but not all will blossom; but when you have a lot more of them grow, then you will be confident that more will blossom to achieve your target”.

Touching on the need for innovative reforms that will see to the advancement of legal education and awareness in the country, he said: “Legal education needs to expand; it must be forward-looking, progressive, respectful of rule of law, and independent of manipulation. The IALS, for instance, when offering a PhD or degree to any legal student has the full backing of the University of London, which has quality control that makes its certification stand out without compromise; and that must be well-accepted here in Ghana”.

Currently, there is a Legal Profession bill in the consultation stage; and the Attorney-General’s Office has been urged by some stakeholders to fast-track the remaining consultations.  This bill aims to comprehensively address the issues of legal education in Ghana today. It must dispel the notion that the legal profession is a guild that is difficult to penetrate.

MountCrest University & University of London affiliation

The legal department of the University of London, School of Advanced Study, has entered a partnership agreement with MountCrest University College to develop tailored courses which will advance legal education and awareness in the country.

“I would like to bring education to a country where a lot of young people are hungry for education, and give them top-quality education from a reputable high-quality provider,” Prof. Stychin said.

Prof. Stychin narrated that the partnership started during the pandemic period through the development of short courses using the expertise of IALS and the strong marketing and publicity opportunities of MountCrest.

The courses included international trade, economic crime, investment law, anti-money laundering, capital market law, professional legal awareness, and regulation among others.

“So, one of the areas we are looking at is short courses delivered for professionals in resonation with the need for professionals to build their credentials and ongoing extra development. We are also looking at collaborations around Ph.D courses, because there is a growing high education sector in Ghana, with many people lecturing/teaching law and researching law with very good qualifications but without a Ph.D.

“With this model, students will register for the course with the University of London and get the course delivered remotely here in Ghana from MountCrest,” he explained.

IALS will also be developing training courses for law teachers in the country and the sub-region around best practices. The pilot project for this particular initiative, he indicated, is currently underway in London and will be introduced to the sub-region when completed.

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