Legal Education in Lithuania: Guidelines for Quality Improvement in Accordance With the Bologna Process
Keywords:legal education, quality assurance of studies, learning outcome, lawyer, Bologna Process, teaching methods
The university law school experience unites all practicing lawyers. Unfortunately, many new lawyers practicing in Lithuania do not seem to meet the minimum expectations established by Lithuanian society. It makes one wonder whether such new lawyers actually learned the values, knowledge and skills that are indispensable to modern lawyers while they were in the law school. If many new practicing lawyers have not learned such things, one must also question whether their respective university law schools effectively taught them such values, knowledge and skills. In addition to being challenged by expectations established by Lithuanian society, Lithuanian universities must also prepare law school students for the global economy. The Bologna Process1 specifically challenges Lithuanian universities to meet new international educational standards and goals, including international mobility, competitiveness, transparency, high quality teaching, and employability.
We will analyze the legal authorities that regulate legal education in Lithuania. We will also review the educational guidelines that have been established to insure the highest quality of legal education in Lithuania.
The first part of this article is devoted to analyzing the quality parameters of educational services in the context of Bologna Process. The survey shows that the Bologna Process offers sufficient legal educational standards to assure the quality of legal education in Lithuania. These standards include the framework of comparable and compatible qualifications for higher education systems, European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance and cooperation of agencies for higher education quality assurance in every member state. Although various legal scholars may disagree, the legal educational standards used in the Bologna Process are the most appropriate to use because such standards (a) are more precise, (b) provide a common understanding, and (c) can be used as a "common currency" by allowing study programs to be more transparent at both local and international levels.In the second part of this article, we analyze the adequacy of learning outcomes as one of the main parameters of ensuring the quality of legal education. This will be done by analyzing the regulation of legal education in Lithuania. The analysis concludes that not enough attention is being devoted to teaching general competencies to law students in Lithuania. For example, competencies in the areas of leadership, creative problem solving, team work, communication (including communication in foreign languages), professional ethical behaviour and professional responsibility appear to be deficient. It is especially worth noting that neither a legal ethics course nor a lawyer's professional responsibility course are required before becoming a licensed lawyer or judge in Lithuania. In our opinion, ignoring professional ethics and failing to require a professional ethics course in all university law schools allows students to form a false impression that ethics is a secondary matter in a lawyer's education.