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In the United States, attorneys must complete seven years of higher education and pass the bar exam before they begin practicing law. In other parts of the world, budding lawyers begin to study law right after high school and must do an apprenticeship when they finish formal classes. There are other differences. Some countries are highly selective about who gets into law school. Others open their doors to anyone who applies as part of a promise of free education. In most countries, law is an undergraduate course of study. But whatever system they use, teachers want an educational system that produces lawyers who know their stuff and can provide competent legal services. To that end, educators from around the world met in Turkey this summer to discuss how to ensure quality in legal education. The conference, which was coordinated by officials from South Texas College of Law in Houston, drew about four dozen participants, half of them from the United States and the others from Turkey, the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, England, Wales, Austria, Japan, Germany, Kenya, Spain, Australia, Chile, Belgium, Denmark and China. Members of the planning committee for the conference, which was in the works for a couple of years, included representatives from the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools, the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the Law School Admission Council and several law schools. Frank T. Read, dean and president of South Texas, noted in his preamble to the conference that this type of brainstorming and cooperative work is essential. “The world becomes smaller day by day,” he said in his June 14 address to the group. “Trade becomes more and more important and the lawyers we educate will be the key advisers helping to resolve the inevitable disputes that will arise as contacts between our countries increase.” Educators should work on improving “quality control” mechanisms during three phases of legal education — entry into law school, education while in school and exit from law school — to ensure that lawyers are competent and ethical, Read said. Topics discussed at the conference included admissions standards, curriculum, accreditation, licensing, post-licensing standards and multijurisdictional practice, says Wanda Marrow, a South Texas assistant dean and conference coordinator. Another conference coordinator, Elizabeth Dennis, who serves as a South Texas assistant dean, says she was impressed by the candor of the participants, most of whom wrote papers on education and licensing issues that will be included in a law review being published by the college next spring. Many of the papers were posted on the school’s Web site (at www.stcl.edu/conferences) before the conference began to allow participants a preview of the ideas to be discussed. “It’s going to be an excellent issue,” Dennis says of the upcoming law review. “We need to do more on comparative law systems.” In some countries, there’s a growing emphasis on practical skills and training, she says. As the director of the school’s legal clinics, she supports that move. “Many nations are making the internship or some work experience mandatory to graduate,” Dennis says. “We don’t have that in the United States, except in individual law schools.” Despite differences in education systems, some subjects were of universal interest, such as the quality of students and problems with facilities. The participants agreed on much, such as how the lack of maturity in some law students shows that generation gaps exist everywhere, Dennis says. The conference was so beneficial that one professor from Israel and a professor from Egypt discussed setting up a regional conference, Dennis says. After the conference, Read, who was staying in Istanbul for the month of July to teach at his school’s summer program on comparative and international law, which is housed at the University of Marmara, shared his thoughts on what U.S. educators learned from other countries and what other countries learned from the American way of doing things. “The Canadian system of ‘articling’ should be seriously considered by the U.S.,” Read wrote in response to questions faxed to him overseas. Articling is a system of short-term apprenticeships for newly graduated law students, who work under the supervision of practicing attorneys. The dean also suggested looking at a German program for training judges and examining the necessity of 50 separate bar examinations in light of the cross-border licensing in Europe. On the other side, some countries are considering a form of admissions test, similar to the American LSAT, to control the quality of entering law students, Read wrote. Many countries are interested in the ABA’s accreditation process. And Japan might move all of its law schools to the graduate level, joining the United States and Canada in that system. The consensus at the conference was that more understanding of each other’s systems is needed, Read said. AWARD WINNERS A University of Houston Law Center professor has been named a 2001 recipient of one of three public sector awards given by the American Bar Association for outstanding work. John Jay Douglass will receive the Nelson Award, recognizing meritorious service by a government or public sector lawyer, on Aug. 3 at the ABA’s annual meeting in Chicago. The award winners were selected by the ABA’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division. Douglass was a founding member of the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division and served as its first delegate to the ABA House of Delegates. He has been chairman of the group’s Standing Committee on Election Law and has worked for the ABA’s Central and Eastern European Law Initiative advising the attorney general in Albania and election officials in Russia and the Ukraine. He is the editor-in-chief of The Public Lawyer, an ABA publication. For 20 years Douglass was dean of the National College of District Attorneys, a group that provides training to state and local prosecutors. He served for more than 30 years in the U.S. Army as a member of the Judge Advocate Generals Corps and was commandant of the JAG School at the University of Virginia. Douglass — who teaches criminal law, election law and military law at the Law Center — has a J.D. from the University of Michigan and an LL.M. from the University of Virginia. The Nelson Award was established as a tribute to the late L. Clair Nelson, a lifelong ABA member, and recognizes the body of work by a longstanding ABA member. LESSONS FROM O’CONNOR Texas law students are learning about the law from one of the nation’s top jurists this summer. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court is the distinguished visiting jurist at the St. Mary’s University Institute on World Legal Problems in Innsbruck, Austria. As part of the course titled “Promoting the Rule of Law,” the justice is lecturing on two topics: constitution-making in Central and Eastern Europe, and how the rule of law can be vindicated in instances of international transgressions. The balance of the course, which runs from July 1 to Aug. 4, is being taught by Professor Judy Beckner Sloan of Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. The Innsbruck summer program, now in its 16th year, aims to give law students an understanding of global issues and the role of law in their peaceful resolution. Participating this year are 74 students, including 51 from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio and others from Austria, Germany and Russia.

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