On December 14, 2017, the Tomorrow’s Lawyer Program hosted the first conference of graduates and participants on the Program for the exchange of experience and best practices between lawyers whose purpose is to develop the legal community and establish the rule of law in Ukraine. The conference was attended by the graduates of the first and participants of the second hundred of the “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program, experts and trainers, as well as the Partners of the Program.
The event started off with welcoming remarks delivered by the Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine H.E. Roman Waschuk; US Ambassador to the United States George Kent, President of the Ukrainian Bar Association Andriy Stelmashchuk, Head of the Board of the Bar Association of Legal Aid Providers Victoriya Mitko, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine Gia Getsadze, Vice President of the Canadian Bureau for International Education and Director of The Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project, funded by the Canadian Government, Larysa Bizo, and the former CEO of the Canadian Bar Association John Hoyles.
By communicating with Ukrainian lawyers and opinion leaders, the Program’s partners greeted participants and graduates and discussed the issues of professional development for lawyers in the aspect of strengthening their communication and leadership skills and ethical issues as well.
Speaking about the role of lawyers in the modern society, Roman Washchuk emphasized: “You should prove with your own example that there is an effective legal community in place, fair courts, and a system of free legal aid available. The program enriches you with new ideas, new experience for Ukrainian lawyers and your achievements today provide evidence that the situation in judiciary is gradually changing. And, in turn, we are ready to continue to support the “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Project”.
George Kent remarked: “Since 2013, the US Embassy together with the Ministry of Justice has facilitated the introduction of a system of free legal aid in Ukraine. As part of this cooperation, we also promote the professional development of lawyers. And we are proud to support the second hundred of the “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program. This Program is not only a unique opportunity for lawyers to improve their professional skills, but also a chance to improve the level of legal assistance throughout Ukraine. It brings leaders of the legal market from different corners of Ukraine and gives lawyers the opportunity to share best practices and experiences”.
Addressing the participants and graduates of the Program, Andriy Stelmashchuk said: “The “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program is a very powerful step towards reforming the Bar in Ukraine. Each of you contributes to strengthening the profession, implementing best practices, uniting the legal community of our country. And together, by joint efforts, step by step, we will achieve reform of the legal system in Ukraine “.
Gia Getsadze, expressing her opinion on the state of the Bar in Ukraine, said: “For the Ministry of Justice, the legal education system reform is among the key priorities. Today, lawyers should possess in addition to specialized knowledge, soft skills and strong ethical values. At present, the Tomorrow’s Lawyer Program is the only platform that provides lawyers with such skills”.
In her video, Larysa Bizo said that the program was prepared based on the needs predefined by the Ukrainian lawyers: “We acknowledged that there was a need to strengthen the effective communication skills with various stakeholders, both within the justice system and with clients and the public. That is why this topic is cross-cutting in the Program; as well as the issues of ethics, which serve as the basis and benchmark for the effective work of any lawyer”.
The Program Manager Andriy Vyshnevsky presented a speech entitled “The “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” – a communication platform, professional community, and a unique chance”, where he described the annual results of the program and the challenges of reforming the Bar in general. Andriy Vyshnevsky stressed that the state of the Bar of Ukraine could become an obstacle to the implementation of judicial reform through lowering ethical standards and resistance to changes:
“All these changes require strong support, which could only be developed within the Bar itself. Only a cutoff number of lawyers who share common values and support these changes could drive the Bar system reform from the deadlock. It is for these reasons that ethics and leadership have become two cross-cutting topics of the “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program. Moreover, the development of the skills which the participants receive, were built on such new values of the legal profession as independence and self-government. That is why the Program has become a platform for lawyers who share these values”.
At the panel session “New Skills – New Achievements: Graduates’ Experience”, the graduates of the Program presented their most significant annual projects. Kateryna Vlasyuk, a lawyer from Kyiv, talked about the advocacy of the Istanbul Convention, and how the Program helped her to take an active part in the process. Lawyer from Lviv Christina Kit, involved in the protection of the rights of women who have suffered from domestic violence, presented the first Association of Women-Lawyers of Ukraine “YurFem”.
The graduate of the Program, Vira Mikhailenko, described the study of transitional justice in the context of hostilities in Eastern Ukraine. “The Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program helped me to receive the necessary skills and knowledge on how to use them effectively. But the most important thing about participating in the Program is the acknowledgment of the unity of the legal profession as a kind of corporation of change that can influence all spheres of public and social life,” – said the lawyer. A graduate from Odesa, Natalia Markocheva, described how she changed the system of drugs procurement for people who are struggling from cancer. A graduate of the Program, Artem Donets, presented the latest Crowdfunding platform “People’s Advocate”, which aims to provide the wider public with an instrument for raising funds and co-financing initiatives that require legal support. The moderator of this session was Mr. Denys Bugay, the President of the Ukrainian Bar Association in retirement.
During the second panel session “Professional Ethics, Avoidance of Conflict of Interest and Prevention of Corruption: Reflections of Graduates and Participants”, graduates of the Program Volodymyr Marusyak, Mykola Kasyan, and participants of the second round Valeriya Savchuk and Andriyana Kulchytska, discussed ethics in the Bar community and avoidance of the conflict of interest. Thus, Volodymyr Marusyak said: “The legal profession should be independent of external and internal factors, and lawyers should become true agents of change, everyone in their own sphere”. The facilitation of such dialogue between lawyers can contribute to the upbringing of a new generation of responsible leaders. The moderator of this discussion was Yulia Lisova, a Program expert and advocate.
Finally, a philosopher Andriy Baumeister summarized the discussions with an inspirational speech “Justice and the Spirit of Law”.
The “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” is a unique program for professional development, exchange of experience and best practices for lawyers in order to strengthen their leadership role in implementing reforms, developing legal community and the rule of law in Ukraine.
The “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” is a powerful network of lawyers, which bring together leaders of the legal profession, who provide legal assistance in accordance with the highest ethical standards, act as agents of change in society and leaders in the professional community.
The “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program was developed during 2016-2017 with the support of The Quality and Accessible legal Aid in Ukraine Project with an expert contribution from the Canadian Bar Association.
In 2018, the “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program is being implemented by the Ukrainian Bar Association and the Bar Association of Legal Aid Providers, with the support of the United States Embassy and The Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).