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Legal Education, Profession and Society Transition: Reform of Lithuanian Legal Education

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image of Review of Central and East European Law
For more content, see Review of Socialist Law.

The article explores a specialized perspective of democratization and nation-building in one of the states restored from the former Soviet Union. The focus is on the reform of Lithuanian legal education. It regards the interaction between the two main national law faculties, on the one hand, and society and the profession on the other. There has been a rise in law work and the number of lawyers. Both legal education and the structure of the profession have undergone changes, facilitated by ways of regulation and the allocation of resources. The profession has become an active and necessary vehicle for institutional reform and European integration. The article covers the following areas: (1) the reconstruction of the legal professions and legal education; (2) the role of legal education in a changed society; and (3) a discussion of how law faculties educate lawyers to solve legal problems in a new state. The examination is based mainly on qualitative interviews, the respondents being elite members of the legal profession, students, and citizens engaged in public debate. This is supplemented with an overview of the regulatory framework, university study programs, and a few statistical data. A few comparisons are made to other similar reforms in post-socialist Europe.

The conclusion is that the new nation-state has invested considerable regulation and resources into a project of creating a new generation of lawyers, hinged on western constitutional values, taking the Lithuanian heritage back to an earlier tradition of the normative values of law. Professional forums have been created, as well as professional debate over legal education and other professional issues.

However, the project does not seem to have reached its goal. Members of the legal profession voices concern about the ability of the traditionally most prestigious law faculty to bring about the required changes of its performance. On the one hand, in pointing out the weaknesses, the profession renders a practical example of having established an open professional community debating professional issues, among them legal education. They take standpoints independent of the political level. On the other hand, the examination also indicates a lacking ability to deal with some general malfunctions. The most important one is that the community habors considerable mistrust which curbs responsiveness to suggestions from other professionals, not to mention willingness to listen to criticism. This makes it extremely diffi cult to deal in practical terms with a number of issues, such as how to safeguard a level of professionalization of law work, creating standards that can be benchmarked with other international systems, getting on with the disposal of repressive law remains, and securing independent law professors with relevant and adequate academic standing in their field.


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