What lies next?
A bachelor in Law is arguably the most versatile degree a student can get at a university; it is a key that can open many doors: aside from a legal career as a lawyer or judge, a law school graduate could opt for a career in politics, banking, journalism, diplomacy, public service, academics, and many other fields in the private sector. But somehow there is this recurring stereotype that the role of a law school is only to form future lawyers; you will often hear students rant about certain courses « they will never use in their professional life », certain universities have even adopted curriculums that optimize their students’ chances of passing the bar exam, but ultimately leads them to being poor jurists lacking significantly in the theoretical aspect of their specialization.
As for USJ, the faculty of law has chosen wisely in not following that trend; FDSP graduates may start on the slow side when it comes to technical aspects of the practice of law, but on the long-run their thorough understanding of the general theories is what makes them stand-out in the field and has placed many of them in very eminent positions in Lebanon and throughout the world.
On the other hand however, one area where FDSP is particularly lacking is professional and academic orientation. The first problem occurs at the end of the third year; many students are confused on whether to opt for public law or private law stream as an emphasis for their degree. This uncertainty directly relates to the lack of awareness the university provides as to the consequences of this choice on career and academic opportunities upon graduation. While a few professors have been kind enough to pass down general advice to their students on occasion, this remains very limited and is very insufficient; the instauration of a department of orientation within the faculty is a necessity that can no longer be ignored at an institution with the repute of USJ.
The student committee is doing its best to try and fill the gap in this regard; last year, students were given the opportunity to participate in two different internships: one at the Lebanese Parliament and the other at the Lebanese Council of State (مجلس شورى الدولة). I myself had the chance of taking part in the two-week internship at the higher administrative court, accompanying the magistrates in their daily tasks, helping them in their researches and discussing the outcome of the cases they were handling. This proved to be a highly valuable experience as it gave me a practical application to the many theories I had learned during my first two years and a better understanding of the importance of Administrative Law and court procedures. Another benefit was the deeper insight I obtained of the judge’s actual role in the process of justice, the extent of his influence and the obstacles he faces while performing his duties. Many thanks to President Chucri Sader for giving us this amazing opportunity and allowing us to discover for ourselves the importance of Administrative Law and the role of the Lebanese Council of State, hopefully students will again be able to participate in such an internship this summer.
And while this sort of internship might be an innovation in Lebanon, it is old news in the United States and most common law countries where « law clerking » is widely practiced; a system where freshly graduated law students are recruited by judges to aid them in research, case study, and miscellaneous daily tasks. This method not only provides a huge deal of experience to the students but also allows the magistrates to work at a faster pace and thus largely improves the functionality of the judicial system. The Lebanese judiciary is known to be lacking significantly in the number of judges, and young Lebanese jurists are crying out for opportunities to expand their experience, this should incite the Lebanese government to adopt a clerking system which can only be beneficial to all parties involved.
As for academic orientation for graduate and post-graduate studies, the university should at the very least provide counsel to its students about the areas that are most in demand on the work market, indicate what institutions offer the best programs in these particular fields and if possible, provide the means of contact with representatives from these institutions so that students have a better idea of where and how to apply once they obtain their degree.
On the eve of its 100th anniversary, the Faculty of Law and Political Science of USJ has certainly not lost any of its prestige and excellence, but it certainly needs to modernize and innovate if it expects to maintain its reputation in the coming years. The instauration of a department for student orientation would be a much anticipated step towards the development of our esteemed faculty.
3rd Year Law student