The recent announcement by the Government of Guyana that it has entered into a joint partnership agreement to establish the JOF Haynes Law School is a welcome initiative for the growth of legal education in Guyana and the Caribbean. The study of law is an academic field that has always attracted a large number of students with dreams of having a legal education. Students in the Caribbean can acquire their LLB from a total of five institutions (the three UWI branches, UG and the University of London external programme). With hundreds of LLB graduates applying annually, the three law schools managed by the Council of Legal Education were clearly unable to cope with the volume of applicants. Hence they resorted to a discriminatory quota and entrance examination system, which resulted in the exclusion of ambitious and hardworking law degree holders from completing the final two years of practical training that would permit them to become practising attorneys in the Commonwealth Caribbean. The JOF Haynes Law School of the Americas (JHLSA) will allow local, Caribbean and international LLB/JD holders to fulfil dreams and aspirations manifested in childhood to become attorneys.
The sceptics both in and outside the legal profession are already trying to push the ‘too many lawyers’ narrative. A society should never complain about having an educated population, whether lawyers, teachers, engineers or accountants as the modern and global world that we live in is driven by the intellectual creativity of our educated citizens. Governments allocate large sums of money in their annual budgets for education to ensure that they have the best human capital to enhance growth and development in a competitive global environment. I would like to know if the naysayers would apply that reasoning when addressing the issue of traffic congestion in Georgetown. The US has well over two hundred law schools with an annual intake of about a hundred thousand students, but you never hear elements of that society complaining, as the value of the legal profession in upholding the democratic values and commercial success of that country is well established.
The legal market will be able to absorb and utilize the skills of present and future lawyers as the study of law allows for diversity and specialization in practice (Human Rights law, Environmental law, Intellectual Property law and Cyber law) along with other numerous areas of interest. A fairly large number of the graduates will move outside of Guyana in seeking the best option for professional growth and remuneration. Individuals in the legal profession who push the argument that a large influx of lawyers is bad for the legal market are trying to keep the status quo of reducing the profession to the ‘chosen few’ which goes against the grain of what the Attorney General, Mr Basil Williams and by extension the APNU+AFC administration is seeking to accomplish in ensuring that the legitimate expectations of LLB holders of becoming qualified attorneys are met.
The current cost of tuition for two years at the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad is G$5,400,000. Local students desirous of going to the Twin Island Republic still have to budget for travelling and living expenses, which at a conservative estimate will be at about G$2,000,000. Once the administrators of the JHLSA set a reasonable tuition fee along with high quality delivery of the Council of Legal Education curriculum, the institution will succeed financially in its business model and academically in providing for the legal needs of students in and beyond Guyana.