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Norman Manley Law School Needs Curriculum Upgrade

Published:Thursday | April 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

THERE IS a general consensus among members of the legal fraternity that the Norman Manley Law School is long overdue for a curriculum upgrade.

Donovan Walker, president, Jamaican Bar Association (JamBar), said the current curriculum is a good basis for training lawyers, but noted that the legal landscape in Jamaica has changed dramatically and the law school needs to keep apace with these changes.

"The law school structure is a good core system, which I don't think needs to be changed, but in recognition of how our legal system has evolved in the past 30 years, I think additional courses could be added to strengthen the legal education of our students," he said.

Carol Aina, principal of the law school who sits on the Council of Legal Education, said the council is committed to undertaking a review of legal education in a holistic manner.

Walker, who is an associate tutor at the law school, gave a raft of recommendations for courses that could be added to the curriculum.

These, he said, would fill certain gaps that he sees in the current offerings. One such gap is the need for courses that address the improved regulatory framework across the region.

"We have introduced a lot of regulatory framework across the region. So 30 years ago, you would not have had a Fair Trading Commission, a Consumer Affairs Commission, an Anti-dumping Commission, a Financial Services Commission and various other commissions. All of these have their own practices and procedures, and it would be good to have optional courses on these," he added.

While acknowledging that there are gaps, Aina, in an email response to the Gleaner, made it clear that a strategy has to be developed to address these.

"I suspect any lawyer you speak to will select a different list of subjects they believe should be taught at law school. That would not be the manner in which to develop a coherent strategy for the best model for legal education."

"Others will argue that the law school should not focus on delivering more content, but should focus on students developing fundamental transferable skills to undertake research, advocacy, writing, and negotiation, as lawyers will always be faced with new and developing areas," she said.

optional courses

For the JamBar president, the addition of optional courses is a suitable way to address the gaps in the curriculum.

Another gap that he wants the law school to address is the development of a core of world-class arbitrators. This, he said, could hold immense economic value for Jamaica.

The advent of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) also presents an opportunity for optional courses.

"We should maybe have a specialised civil procedure course in appellate advocacy which teaches the practice and procedure of going to the CCJ," Walker suggested.

Walker also called for courses in international trade and business as these, he argued, would make Jamaican lawyers marketable on the international stage.

He went on to explain that the increase in the number of offshore companies in the region also provides opportunities for additional courses.

Aina indicated that the Council of Legal Education has been looking at making changes to the curriculum.