Hebron University Concludes the International Conference on Legal Profession in Palestine and the Prospects of its Reform

Hebron University College of Law & Political Science and its Legal Clinics continued its conference on the legal profession in Palestine and the prospects for its reform, for the second day on 24 November 2016. The second day incorporated four sessions with 17 speakers from various countries and a number of Palestinian universities.

Session 1 addressed the question of “Legal Ethics in Palestine and Beyond”, and moderated by Dr. Ratib Jabari, Assistant Professor of Law at Hebron University. The session incorporated the following presentations:     

Mr. Belal Malah, Field Researcher and Human Rights Activist at Independent Commission for Human Rights, talked about “The Stereotyping Image of Lawyers in Palestinian Society: Its Effects on the Rule of Law”.This study tries to uncover the way in which the society views lawyers; whether positive or negative image. The study is the first attempt to address the image of one of the pillars of justice in Palestine. There are studies that analyzed the status of teachers, clerics and youth. However, there is lack of studies that use lawyers as unite of analysis, and how their image appears to be within the Arab societies in general and in Palestinian society in particular. In order to test the people’s perception of lawyers, the study uses interviews with a group of people who have dealt with lawyers, as well as others who never interacted with lawyers. This study consists of two parts; one describes the image of lawyers, and the second tests the impact of such a social image vis-à-vis lawyers on the respect for the rule of law.

Dr. Mohammad Badousi, Assistant Professor at the College of Law of Istiqlal University, presented about “Lawyers Conduct and Professional Responsibility”. The Law for Legal Profession in Palestine and international standards regulate the relationship between lawyers among their colleagues, clients and judges, as well as the requirements for those who wish to join the legal profession. The legal profession is linked to the ethical values ​​that prevail in all societies. It is not enough for one to be a lawyer who is merely familiar with the law. It is equally important to be committed to the ethics of the profession. Working in a career that aims to defend rights and to achieve justice requires from those who practice it to be clean from corruption. As the numbers of lawyers is on the rise, some unethical individuals could access the profession. The legal profession, like any other profession, incorporates people who seek material gains without concern for ethical values.

Dr. Naeem Salameh, Assistant Professor of the Faculty of Law at An-Najah National University, introduced “The New Legal Ethics Bylaw in Palestine”. The Palestinian Legal Profession Law has regulated certain conducts of lawyers. It is not permissible for a lawyer to be a partner in more than one law firm. Partner lawyers cannot plead against each other and cannot represent two parties in the same lawsuit. It is prohibited for lawyers to run after clients directly, through brokers or advertisement. Article 29 of the Legal Profession Law stipulated that any lawyer who breaches his duties as set out in the Law and the Legal Ethics Bylaw or who exceeds his professional duties or commits an unprofessional conduct shall be subject to disciplinary sanctions. After discussions since 2012, the Bar Association has recently adopted the Legal Ethics Bylaw. This paper analyses the key provisions this Bylaw in light of the well-known legal ethics in comparative law.

Prof. Charles Michael Schnurman, Clinical Lecturer of Law at the College of Law of Qatar University, spoke about “Bar Associations in Struggled Countries Due to Politics, War or Economic Strife”. Few communities or countries face more challenges than those faced by the Palestinian people.  A robust and energetic bar associations can serve to weave a thread of predictability and stability to the legal profession which in turn can have dramatic and lasting effects for society as a whole. There are few, if any, examples of bar association’s that face the same hurdles as does the one in Palestine. There are, however, many examples of bar association’s that have been established in nascent countries, or societies in turmoil, that can offer examples of overcoming obstacles, discovering best practices, and setting appropriate goals. This paper examines the bar associations of several countries that have struggled due to politics, war and or economics strife, to become successful and thriving institutions. Specifically, the paper examines how these bar associations handle quality control, relations with the broader legal community, and the challenges of integrating female professionals. Using statistical data, anecdotal evidence and comprehensive survey data, the paper’s objective is to provide evidence on how to achieve the goals of the Palestinian Bar Association.

Session 2 discussed the “Relationship between Legal Education and Law Professions” and was moderated by Dr. Sander Suleiman, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Hebron University. The session included the following presentations:     

Dr. Emilio Dabed, Professor of Political Science and Law, Centre for Palestinian Studies, Columbia University, New York, presented a paper on “The Urgent Need of Critical Scholarship in Palestinian Legal Education”. Palestinian legal education has persistently privileged a positivist reading of the law among students, an understanding which defines law merely as a code of norms whose mastering, often by memory, is necessary to ensure the efficiency of lawyers. This focus tends towards a de-contextualized, normative analysis or legal exegesis which hovers only around what the text of the law prescribes, while ignoring other dimensions. This paper intends to engage with these topics; to elaborate on the need of exposing law students to a diverse range of conceptions of the law; and, finally, to explain how critical legal theory is crucial for a more complete understanding of the law, one that does not only prepare the students for a technical work in courts, but that also offers the tools to develop critical, interdisciplinary research, and to produce legal knowledge that is indispensable to the comprehension of today’s Palestine.

Prof. Richard Grimes, Professor and former Director of Clinical Programmes of York University in the United Kingdom, suggested “Producing Lawyers Who Are Fit for Purpose: The Role of Legal Education”. Do we know what we want from our future lawyers and how do we propose to achieve that? This paper will look at the relationship between legal education and the legal profession in both the civil and common law worlds. The objective is to foster a discussion on how knowledge, skills and values can be addressed in the design and delivery of the law school curriculum. In particular the benefits derived from using experiential study methods will be identified. The paper will be presented in an interactive format, in part using role-play, to focus attention on the relevant considerations and to demonstrate how harnessing an effective pedagogy can meet both academic and vocational needs, whilst enhancing the learning process for students.

Mr. Wouter Ates, Legal Advisor at Saxion University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, explored “The Interaction between Legal Education and Law Professions”. This paper focuses on two objectives. One is based on my role as lecturer/advisor. In this part I will explain how my daily work in the legal field contributes to my lectures, connecting theory to practice by giving examples and presenting actual problems. During my lectures, students are working together to find solutions for actual problems. For instance, students are working on a research in a legal database or preparing a summons procedure. Secondly, I will highlight with my role as a legal advisor. I will discuss the internships and the practical assignments that I am supervising. I will explain how I offer students the opportunity to work for roughly six months, in which they draft tenders and/or contracts and in which they give advice to clients. At the end of my presentation, I will highlight the aspects that bridge the gap between education and the demands of the profession.

Prof. Nicholas Robson, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Cumbria in the UK, discussed “Legal Education in England and Wales: Current Challenges, Developments and Lessons to be Learnt”.The presentation critically examines the system of legal education and training in England and Wales, exploring the different routes by which a student may enter the legal profession, with a focus on current challenges and future developments. With the increasing cost of training, fewer jobs being available to qualifying students, and uncertainty as to what the legal profession will look like, students face ever-greater pressures. It is therefore imperative that legal training institutions look ahead and aim to provide students with the keys skills and knowledge necessary to work in this challenging environment. We examine the unusual approach of England and Wales; consider how this system has evolved; and ask whether it is still an effective approach for the 21st century. We will consider recent developments, such as introducing new methods to train lawyers, including apprenticeships, examine whether the proposals go far enough in creating an effective training system, and consider best practices which can be implemented to improve a student’s chances of succeeding as a lawyer.

Session 3 dealt with “Selected Models on Legal Profession”, and moderated by Dr. Musa Dweik, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Al-Quds University. Four experts spoke at this session:     

Mr. Ahmad Nasra, Lecturer at the Faculty of Law & Public Administration of Birzeit University, started by providing an “Assessment Methods for Trainee Lawyers”.In Palestine, the methods for evaluating trainee lawyers are conventional. The controversy starts at universities that largely teach law theoretically. In light of the results of the Bar’s written examinations each year, it has become necessary to re-evaluate these methods and consider more productive and practical approaches. In some cases, lawyers pass the bar exam without being well-trained in courts. It is necessary, therefore, to undertake serious review of the methods of evaluation for trainee lawyers. This paper explores the productivity of current evaluation methods of the Palestinian Bar Association for trainee lawyers in terms of: written exams, oral exams and research. It will also present recommendations for new methods to be taken into consideration.

Dr. Frank Diepenmaat, Lecturer/Researcher at Saxion University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, proposed “The Creation of a Curriculum That Matches the Demands of the Legal Profession”. This paper is based on the experience of the researcher in building a curriculum that is closely connected with the demands of the legal profession.  In a University of Applied Sciences, our aim is to accompany our students towards the level of that of a beginning practitioner. This requires that the education is not only about the law in a strict sense. In short, the construction of our curriculum consists out of four pillars: knowledge, skills, integrated case studies and career development. The paper will discuss these points, with a special focus on the training in legal and communication skills and the practical assignments that we offer to our students. It will explain a system that is called “blended learning”: students work online (using the opportunities of the internet), on site (in school) and on the job (internships for example).

Mr. Beth Givens, Program Director at American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative in the Balkans, presented his experience in “The Creation of Regional Network for Non-governmental Justice Actors to Strengthen Defense Advocacy in Western Balkans”. The Western Balkans has experienced conflict and division beginning with the Bosnian wars and continuing through the struggle for Kosovo’s independence. The region has also experienced a transition from inquisitorial systems of justice to adversarial models which require defense attorneys to play a much more active role as human rights defenders. In 2013 with the support of the United States government, a regional network of bar chambers, advocates and civil society was created to strengthen advocacy in the region and address some of these challenges. This paper will describe the challenges in building the network– those that inherently exist in creating a regional initiative and those specific to a region where ethnic, religious and political tensions still exist.  The paper will also outline the benefits of bringing justice sector actors with common interests and goals together across a region, which strategies and approaches were most effective in creating the network and challenges that exist in sustaining such a network. This model might shed light on the possibility of creating similar networks in the Middle East in general and within Palestine in particular.

Dr. Mohammad Saabneh, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law of Palestine Ahliya University, released his research on the “Role of Moot Courts in Advancing the Applied Legal Education: The Case of Palestine Ahliya University”.This paper discusses the moot court as a practical method of legal education as it developed and evolved at Palestine Ahliya University School of Law in Bethlehem. This study starts by introducing the nature of moot courts and its techniques, scope of application, significance and impact. The paper concludes by presenting how moot courts system contributes greatly to practical learning methods for law students in law schools, despite the existing challenges.

Session 4, which explored the issue of “Lawyers Apprenticeship: Current Situation and Reform Prospects”, was moderated by Dr. Belal Shobaki, Head of Political Science Department at Hebron University. Four speakers presented at this session:

Prof. Stephen Rosenbaum, Lecturer in Law at University of California Berkeley in United States addressed the topic “Definite Articles: Redefining and Refining the Lawyering Apprenticeship”.With an increase in graduates from Palestinian law schools, the number of apprentices is on the rise. However, market forces, too few lawyers and law firms willing to supervise an apprentice, lack of consistently good apprenticeship oversight, an oversupply of law graduates, and geographical inconvenience are among the reasons that make it impractical to rely solely on Palestine Bar Association apprenticeships as a means for teaching students how to practice law. This paper builds on Dean Qafisheh’s model (A Century Of Law Profession In Palestine (September 2016) by reviewing the North American experience with apprenticeships (known as “articling” in Canada and other ex-British colonial nations), professional skills classes, clinical education, externships and continuing legal education for law school graduates and lawyers. It analyzes strengths and shortcomings with the various approaches undertaken by law schools and bar associations and suggests ways in which these formats might be adapted to the legal profession in contemporary Palestine.

Dr. Ishaq Barqawi, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law of An-Najah National University, provided critical analysis on the “Bar Exams and Research Papers of Trainee Lawyers”. On 24 May 2013, by amending the Lawyers Apprenticeship Bylaw of 2004, the Palestinian Bar's general assembly took a series of measures. It required apprentice lawyers to sit for a pre-admission written test and oral interview, attend a series of training sessions, write a research paper, and undertake final written and oral examinations. In addition to limiting the flow of new arrivals, these measures were introduced to ensure the quality of young lawyers and their familiarity with domestic law and procedure. However, the pre-admission examination was abolished by the High Court of Justice on 30 June 2015. Now the post-apprenticeship exam is the main tool to assess the capabilities of fresh lawyers. This exam was introduced in 2004— the first time since the demise of the British rule, whereby lawyers were admitted without examinations. Currently, the Bar contemplates to further reform the apprenticeship system, which might include setting up a “lawyers training institute”.

Dr. Mahmoud Dodeen, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law & Public Administration of Birzeit University, introduced a paper titled “Towards the Establishment of an Institute for Lawyers Training in Palestine”.This paper suggests the establishment of apprenticeship institute for lawyers. This institute aims to overcome the challenges facing the law graduates when registering in the Bar Association as trainees, giving the increasing number of law graduates. The paper discusses the institutionalizing the apprenticeship in specialized areas of law in order to meet the professional developments and job requirements, which in turn would contribute to building lawyers capable to compete at the local and global markets. It will also address the legal, technical, financial, and administrative requirements for establishing the institute, as well as the ability of the Palestinian Bar Association and the graduates' financial and educational capabilities in order to enable the decision makers to take the suitable decision in this respect.

Finally Dr. Omar Erakat, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law of Al-Quds University, concluded by explaining the “Lawyers Apprenticeship and Continuing Education”. The legal profession is one of the required professions for the defense of human rights. Thus, there should be lawyers who are able to defend these rights. The apprenticeship system grants an experimental opportunity for law graduates to advance the theoretical learning they earn at law schools. In addition, the apprenticeship system develops the apprentice’s personality; a recent study by Harvard University demonstrated that the lawyer’s personality plays a significant role for the success in the law profession. As long as the apprenticeship regulations are effective, quality lawyers will be produced. The increased number of graduates is the main challenge facing the apprentices and their future careers. Moreover, the effectiveness of the apprenticeship is affected by the lack or absence of financial incentives for trainees. This paper provides a set of recommendations that would hopefully contribute to the efficiency of trainee lawyers and reform of the current apprenticeship system in Palestine.