Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What's it like teaching legal skills in Qatar

Here's the second installment from our guest-blogger Professor Rob Hudson on teaching legal skills in the Middle East (click here for his first post).

What is different about teaching legal skills in a Qatari law school as compared to a US law school?

There is only one law school and law is an undergraduate major. There are no night or part time studies or summer classes here. The students at the College of Law are more than 75% female. I am told many of the men go abroad to law schools in Egypt, Jordan, the UK, and the US for their legal education. There are five to six job offers for every graduate of the College of Law.  Each Qatari graduate has the option to have a fully funded graduate degree in any country after they complete their LLB in law.

The campus at Qatar University is divided between males and females in all services, colleges, and facilities, including the library. A wall separates the campus between the male and female areas. There is currently a Women’s’ Library and a Men’s’ Library.  In the almost completed unified library facility the male students will have access only to one floor of the building while the other four floors are reserved for female students. Faculty of both genders may go anywhere on campus without much worry although there are limits to that too.  Almost all the females wear black abayas and the men dress in white thawbs. Classes are offered in male and female only sections.

The students at Qatar University typically take two years of foundational courses featuring the English language before being accepted into a degree program, such as law. So the typical law student has an ability to function in English. More than 50% of classes at the College of Law are in English. The College of Law also requires additional classes in Legal English to incorporate the specialized language of law. There is no LSAT or Bar Exam here so those standards are not applicable. The College of Law is discussing applying the Cambridge Legal English Exam to our students for standardizing legal language usage as well. 

Importantly, there is a mix of legal systems and practice here in Qatar making the teaching of legal skills tiered and essentially students are on different tracks. Commercial courts in Qatar, like the one at the Qatar Financial Center, operate with case and client management principles similar to courts around the world. The Judges at the QFC Court are some of the top Justices from the US and the UK, including Lord Wolfe from England who visited us at the QU Legal Writing Center last term. College of Law students working in these settings need similar skills to US law students. US lawyers would feel at home practicing in these settings. The Court at the QFC is headed by a Barrister from the UK named Chris Campbell-Holt and he explained to me that law students practicing there would be expected to know legal English, common law principles, legal writing, research, and advocacy and mediation skills. In contrast, Qatari students entering practice in areas such as family and criminal law will go to the National Courts and will probably do more training after law school at the Centre for Judicial and Legal Studies. I met Mr. Mubarak, the Head of this Center at the Ministry of Justice, and was interested to learn they do not use either Westlaw or Lexis for research in the building and all resources are in Arabic.

To help provide individualized experiential learning for law students anticipating practice in any area the College of Law is working to establish a variety externships and a clinic for the first time. A moot court now is active and we have teams participating in competitions like the Vis Moot.  Although the first International Review of Law was established at Qatar University it is not student edited. The College of Law adopted ALWD as the citation standard although OSCOLA and the Bluebook have a place in the scholarship and instruction here.

Legal writing and research is mandatory at the College of Law regardless of where our students want to go with their law degree and they must take LRW I & II as of last term. To help facilitate this we are focusing on accessing and training students on legal research databases with Arabic and English functionality. For example, the new Westlaw GulfLexis Middle East Law, and Eastlaws support both languages to different degrees.  Some services common at US law schools are not available in Qatar such as WestLawNext and Lexis Advanced.  Despite my best efforts, I could not get  access to the Lexis Citation WorkStation in the Gulf market but Hein-on-line is fortunately now part of our library collection as of last week.  Finally, I just added CALI membership for our law faculty and students so we have the tutorials and resources of that organization. I will work on CILP next.

In my last post next week I’ll discuss life in Qatar as a faculty member and law librarian.

Dr. Rob Hudson

Lecturer/Law Librarian

Qatar University, College of Law

PO Box 2713

Doha, Oatar


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