PDIA Course Journey: Legal Education Reform in Ukraine

Guest blog written by Artem Shaipov, Ivan Shemelynets, Sheverdin Maksym, Maryna Yakubovych.

This is a team works for the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the Legal Education Committee of the Ukrainian Bar Association, and the USAID New Justice Program in UkraineThey successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

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What were some key takeaways from this course?

This rigorous, insightful course helped our team to become a true team in the first place. We learned a lot on teamwork and multiagent leadership and obtained a better understanding of how, in fact, change materializes in different contexts.

We also gained a bird’s eye view on state capability and its development through the reading on the “big stuck” in state capability. We also got a more nuanced understanding of the  accountability mechanisms through studying four relationships of accountability and how they affect development.

Our comparing and contrasting the 2015 problem with the 1804 problem was quite an eye-opening experience as we better understood how a true development is made possible — through problem-driven, iterative adaptations.

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The construction and deconstruction of our problem (poor quality of legal education in Ukraine) through the “5 why” conversations, triple-A change space analysis, and an in-depth analysis of teach sub-cause on our fishbone diagram followed by our team’s crawl  through our design space in a search for possible solutions to identified problems empowered us with new instruments to solve the problem at hand.

It was also quite empowering to learn that one can always do something to address a given problem, be it a direct, immediate action to solve it or indirect, longer-term efforts aimed increasing acceptance, authority, and/or ability to tackle specific problems.

Importantly, the course allowed us to give our structured iterations a try, do things differently, reflect on achievements, learn lessons from our own mistakes, challenge initial assumptions, and make necessary adjustments after each iteration.

What progress did you make or what insights did you have about your problem through this process?

Before our team embarked on this course, a piecemeal legal education reform in Ukraine had been under way for ten years with only some, marginal success as to improving legal education quality.

Success stories included, but were not limited to, first opinion surveys of legal employers, modern courses and interactive teaching methodologies, external assessments of leading law schools, and independent standardized entrance exams for MA programs in law (a diploma required to be admitted to the bar in Ukraine) that enabled over 33,000 law graduates to compete for admissions to graduate programs in law in a fair, transparent, merit-based, and corruption-free way.

Having done this course, we managed to clarify our understanding of root causes, causes, and sub-causes of poor legal education quality in Ukraine. This contributed to our improved, structured understanding of the context we are operating in. Then, thanks to our  teamwork guided by the course tutors, we managed to construct solutions addressing specific causes and sub-causes of the complex problem at hand.

The course materials and assignments first of all helped us (a) to become a better, more engaged team, (b) achieve a greater clarity in our understanding of the complex problem of poor legal education quality in Ukraine, (c) master the logic behind the serch frame, (d) identify possible solutions to root causes and sub-causes of the problem, and (e) sequenced steps to address them by using PDIA.

These efforts helped us learn how to approach our complex problem in a more comprehensive way with more chances for learning and success of our efforts going forward. This course certainly contributed to building a greater capability of the Legal Education Reform Team in Ukraine comprised of the representatives of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the Legal Education Committee of the Ukrainian Bar Association, and the USAID New Justice Program in Ukraine.

Critically important, we will now use problem-driven iterative adaptations to solve each of the identified sub-problems and learn on our way to success.

How are you using or will you use what you have learned in this course?

We are, already using and will continue to use what we have learned in this course, in particular the PDIA methodology and the search frame. We have succeeded in outlining concrete steps to address the problem of poor quality of legal education. In particular, we finalized the recommendations for improving student externship management, reached a consensus with professional associations of lawyers regarding the possible introduction of law school rankings in Ukraine, serving the interests of consumers of law school services and facilitating the law schools’ race to the top.

Our team contributed to the Ministry of Justice’s initiative of introducing thresholds for law school admissions to increase the level of competition for admissions and improve the quality of student body.

Further, to improve law schools’ internal systems of legal education quality assurance and address sub-causes of law school internal problems contributing to poor quality of legal education, our team worked on developing a model regulation on legal education quality assurance units. Such units are aimed to set up teams of dedicated professionals to practice PDIA at the law school level.

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Thanks to this course, our team is now much better equipped and more empowered to make a difference in Ukraine’s legal education system and deliver a positive impact on legal education quality in the country. We will do this by shaping the government’s draft concept, strategy and action plan for legal education reform as well as by taking well thought-through actions to continue our efforts to address concrete root causes and sub-causes of the problem with legal education quality that we are facing.

We will use the search frame to step-by-step introduce mechanisms for legal education quality assurance that will be effective in the local context. In particular, our team will further consider options for establishing a testing center under the Ministry of Justice as well as introducing external, independent, standardized exams for law school admissions and graduation that will strengthen legal education quality and, in the long run, contribute to increasing the quality of Ukraine’s legal profession.

Thanks to this course, our team is now more active, better engaged, more educated, and better prepared to solve the complex puzzle of poor legal education quality in Ukraine.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity of learning from this course and thank our teachers and everyone who contributed to the course for their time, talent, and efforts invested to bring this course to life and make it accessible worldwide.

To learn more, visit our website or download the PDIAtoolkit (available in English and Spanish).

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