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I have just returned from a year teaching law at Odessa National Law Academy in Ukraine; it was the purpose behind my Fulbright scholarship. My single year in Ukraine did not change the world. Ukraine is a relatively poor country where teachers and judges earn, on average, $65 per month. It is estimated that the overall standard of living has declined 50 percent since the fall of communism and the independence of Ukraine in the early 1990s. But Ukraine is an important country geopolitically, situated between Russia, Poland and the countries of Central Europe. It is now the largest country in Europe (excepting Russia), with valuable Black Sea ports. While some in Ukraine look to Russia as a model for future development, most of the 50 million citizens in its fledgling democracy look to the West instead. The electives I taught there emphasized U.S. employment law, legal research and writing and legal ethics. My students were very good listeners with sharp memories and strong English skills. Therefore, I decided that using the Socratic method with lots of questions and few answers would be the best way to teach these students to think like American lawyers. Ukraine is a civil law country without a well-developed system of judicial precedents. So I emphasized reading and writing about judge-made law. We briefed cases, created hypotheticals and explored the advantages and disadvantages of the two legal systems. We contrasted the U.S. system of employment at will with the Ukrainian employment-contract system, the negative procedural rights of the U.S. Constitution with the substantive positive rights in Ukraine’s new constitution and the ease of enforcing discrimination statutes in the United States with the difficulties of judicial enforcement in Ukraine. INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY, PASSION Students hotly debated the efficiency and fairness of discrimination laws, as my American students would, with some students emphasizing the basic values of equality and others emphasizing the traditional family. Others favored a free- market approach to the issue. Legal-ethics hypotheticals concerning confidentiality issues created similar divisions. Ukraine does not appear to have a well-developed set of national ethics rules. The American Bar Association, in fact, recently worked with the legal community there to develop a draft set of rules, which my class used. While some students said that there were, and should be, no ethics rules for attorneys other than the naked pursuit of self-interest, many others favored confidentiality rules that would allow attorneys to disclose client confidences to save an innocent life. These contrasts in values are illustrated by a story about the founding of Odessa National Law Academy, a private law school. Until the mid-1990s, law was taught only at the national university, but then some members of the faculty left to form the academy as a private law school. The academy has prospered with a combination of private and public funding. Recently, the rector of the academy, who is a member of the Ukrainian parliament, had the academy selected as the training center for all Ukraine judges. Some decry the corrupting effect of this entrepreneurial spirit on traditional ways of life; others find it a model for the future of Ukraine. What the future holds for this nation is uncertain. Some are leaving, fearful that its infrastructure is near collapse without help from the outside. The international economic downturn and the shift in U.S. attention to the Middle East has also had a negative impact on Fulbright grants to Ukraine. Only half the number of U.S. scholars will be visiting Ukraine this year; some talented Ukrainian students will not be able to visit the United States. Nonetheless, I did witness one success for democracy during the recent parliamentary elections, for which I was an international observer. (Ukraine adopted a new constitution, stipulating a parliamentary democracy, in 1996.) My team observed no voting fraud. We saw lots of ordinary people voting, working the election stations and observing the election on behalf of the numerous political parties. It took as long as 30 hours to complete the hand-counting of all of the ballots. It is particularly important for lawyers to support programs like Fulbright (the 50-year-old Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship endeavor in international educational exchange) and the ABA’s Central and Eastern Europe Law Initiative. Both of these programs provide vital intellectual nourishment to some of the world’s most vulnerable young democracies. Paul Hodapp is special counsel at Denver’s Wheeler Trigg & Kennedy. He was a Fulbright Scholar from 2001-2002.

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