Panel discussion: Benefits and Risks of Legal Clinics and Cooperation between the Faculty of Law at CU in Bratislava and the Slovak Bar Association
In 2016/2017 academic year, the Faculty of Law at CU in Bratislava has significantly been fulfilling its ambitions in the area of the development of clinical legal education the primary objective of which lies in connecting the theoretical education with practice. Faculty's long-term goal is to create a course titled “Students' Legal Advise Centre” through which students, under professional supervision, would provide clients with legal analyses and would thus gain valuable experience which could later on ensure them a smoother start as legal practitioners. The emphasis is put primarily on increasing the quality of legal education. The intention to create the Students' Legal Advise Centre was introduced to the Slovak Bar Association by the governing bodies and representatives of the Faculty of Law at CU. An important milestone for launching this project and its further development is an approving statement issued by the Slovak Bar Association. This stemmed from and was achieved after a number of negotiations where the concept of running the Students' Legal Advise Centre had been presented and clarified.
The cooperation between both institutions was confirmed in the Agreement on Cooperation concluded between the Faculty of Law at Comenius University in Bratislava and the Slovak Bar Association which was signed on 25 November 2016. This Agreement manifests the intention of the Slovak Bar Association to participate actively in running the Centre and thus support the practical education of lawyers.
In order to support the development of legal clinics in the SR, the Faculty of Law at CU in Bratislava decided to hold a panel discussion on clinical legal education in which international participants would take part. This discussion was held thanks mainly to the financial support provided by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the SR.
The panel discussion was held on 13 December 2016 in the Courtroom at the Faculty of Law at CU in Bratislava and focused on the benefits and risks of legal clinics. A number of participants took part in the discussion including the representatives of the Slovak Bar Association as legal practitioners, foreign experts on clinical legal education from the USA, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, representatives from the Faculty of Law at Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, a representative from the Faculty of Law at Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica and a representative from the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic.
The discussion was opened by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Eduard Burda, Ph.D., the dean of the Faculty of Law at CU in Bratislava, who welcomed all participants and emphasized the need for practical education of lawyers at law faculties in his contribution. He showed his appreciation for the attitude adopted by the Slovak Bar Association in connection with the modernization of legal education and presented other plans of the faculty regarding the changes to be made to the study programme “law”. Dr. Ľubomír Hrežďovič, the chairman of the Slovak Bar Association, joined the discussion as well along with its other two vice-chairmen. The contribution was presented by the chairman himself where he referred to the cooperation between the law faculty and the Slovak Bar Association and made the audience familiar with mutual negotiations which had taken place prior to the signing of the Agreement on Cooperation and which had primarily focused on possible risks connected with activities undertaken by the Students' Law Centre. Mgr. Zuzana Illýová, Ph.D., the director of the Institute of Clinical Legal Education and Physical Education, also joined the discussion on behalf of the Faculty of Law at CU and introduced the concept of running and developing the clinical legal education at the Faculty of Law at CU. Nowadays, there are many courses offered by the faculty aimed at the development of practical legal skills of students, including a number of simulated clinical courses as well as two courses where the students work with real legal problems and meet real clients. Professor Jeff Leslie, the director of Clinical Legal Education Centre at the University of Chicago, who introduced the US concept of legal clinics, presented his contribution at the discussion as well. The second section of contributions was opened by Ing. Andrej Piovarči, Ph.D. from the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the SR who expressed a very positive attitude towards the development of clinical legal education at individual faculties in connection with the provided subsidy from the State. Other foreign participants were Dr. jur. Judit Tóth, Ph.D. from the University in Szeged, Filip Czernicki, Ph.D., who is the chairman of the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation, and Dr. Veronika Tomoszková, Ph.D., who is the head of the Clinical Legal Education Centre at the Faculty of Law at Palacký University in Olomouc. The last section of the discussion was opened by Dr. Adam Giertl and Mgr. Dominika Becková from the Faculty of Law at Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice. The panel discussion was closed by Dr. iur. Dr. Ing. Michal Turošík, Ph.D., the vice-chairman for international relations and development at the Faculty of Law at Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica.
The panel discussion was very successful. There were very fruitful discussions held after every section. In general, the participants agreed with each other in terms of their opinions about the risks and benefits of clinical legal education. They primarily stressed out the need for a constant exchange of experience and the need to constantly emphasize the purpose of legal clinics which lies in the improvement of quality of legal education and the building of students' values.