Ukrainian Law Student “Summer School” – July 4-15 – Week 1

From July 4-15 CEELI is running a two week “Summer School” for Ukrainian law students, who come from different stages of education and early careers in law. The result of much planning over the past few months, and a response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the course has been created with preparation for trials related to the war as a focus. Almost 300 students applied for the program, which was a massive response after spreading the application through CEELI’s network, and thirty-two were selected to take part in the two week program, with a goal of allowing four break out groups of eight students to create a hands-on interactive learning program. This blog post is an update after the first week.

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(Picture of the students and faculty for the program in front of Villa Grebovka)

The first week of the program was focused on lawyering and trial skills, before the second week’s focus on doctrinal international and humanitarian law. The faculty for the week were Julia Fromholz (Executive Director of the CEELI Institute), Max Timofeyev (Legal Advisor and Program Manager at CEELI), Marcia Levy (UNH Law), Judith Ritter (Delaware Law School), Mariia Tsypiashchuk (The National University of Ostroh Academy), and retired Judge Sidney Brooks (Colorado). Judge Brooks sadly had COVID during the week but was able to join “remotely” from within the Villa and participate through Zoom.

The first day of the program was led by Marcia Levy who, I have to note, has some of the best ice-breaking skills for a new group of students I have ever seen, giving everyone a chance to become acquainted to each other. The day revolved around interview skills and understanding the types of questions to ask to gain information from a client, continuing the interactive nature of the course with breakout groups completing mock interviews.

The second day had a visiting faculty member, Olivia Bushell from Skadden’s London Office, who educated the students on trauma informed lawyering. This day in particular was very informative as it went through the psychology and physiology of trauma and how to best manage it when interviewing and working with traumatized clients. The lessons not only focused on trauma in clients but also self-care for lawyers when they themselves deal with the trauma in their lines of work, providing them skills to deal with secondary trauma. These trauma informed skills especially I believe are invaluable for the students in dealing with conflict based cases and I am grateful for having the chance to learn about them myself. I wanted to share one video in particular from the lessons that I thought was very informative: Trauma and the Brain

The rest of the week’s focus was a more interactive and hands on lessons in connection to a hypothetical case the students would be having mock trials for on the last day of the week. The facts of the trial revolved around a bank robbery with a co-conspirator coming forward, alibis, and a traumatized bank teller. The interview and trauma informed lawyering skills the students learned earlier in the week were able to be utilized in played out scenarios. Other lessons revolved around developing case theories, direct and cross examination skills, and ability to tell a story in the courtroom. One practice hypo was arguing similarities between pieces of art in museum acquisitions, with sides arguing for and against (a hypothetical I greatly appreciated having art history background) and a "story telling" example given with the viewing of this great clip from Boston Legal, though highly dramatized, still valuable as an example - James Spader in Boston Legal - "Piece of Pie". All of these lessons started with a presentation and discussion followed by breakout groups, led by individual faculty, for the students to practice and ingrain the skills they just learned. The interactive nature of the program was great to see as the students were all engaged and had the opportunity to learn from each other in seeing what strategies worked and did not in certain scenarios.

The week’s hypotheticals and scenarios revolved around the previously mentioned bank robbery scenario and extra facts were given to the students for mock trials on the Friday. On Thursday the students were randomly selected into 16 groups/teams of two, half being prosecutors and half defense, and they were given time to prepare their arguments and witnesses (which the students played themselves). On Friday the teams entered the court room, led by our faculty as the esteemed judges, and had the opportunity to put all the skills they acquired over the past week to the test. I was able to view a few of the trials and was extremely impressed with the students ability to utilize skills learned and their dedication to their teams. Some of the acting skills, when they were playing the part of witnesses, were those meant for Hollywood and many of the lawyers did not hold back in playing their parts as defenders and prosecutors - arguments, objections, and all. One of the trials was led by Judge Brooks over Zoom and the students in that case were given the opportunity to show their trials skills in front of a real judge who played the part as only a judge with decades of experience could. They received feedback from the faculty followed by the juries, made up of other students who had their trials at a separate time, making their decisions. Overall the trials were a great end to the week and was great to see the lessons come to fruition in a fantastic show of skill and practice.

Here are a links to CEELI’s LinkedIn posts about the program that include more pictures:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Overall the first week was a great success and the students and myself definitely learned a lot from the amazing faculty. I hope they had a great weekend as well and were able to sight see in the beautiful city of Prague.