RANEPA IPACS launches new bachelor's program, Jurisprudence - Legal Liberal Arts
Bulat Nazmutdinov, director of the new program at the Institute of Public Administration and Civil Service (IPACS), speaks about its methodology and philosophy, potential employment for future graduates and more.
- What kind of learning styles does your program offer?
- The Jurisprudence – Legal Liberal Arts program provides a rich educational environment that combines elements of the legal track with a broader focus on Liberal Arts. Along with the core subjects, we offer a wide choice of elective disciplines, including non-legal ones, plus various skills training. I admit that embracing the program content might be quite challenging, but modern students are talented and hardworking people. My colleagues and I believe that our joint efforts might generate something innovative and interesting not only in legal education, but also in the legal profession in general.
As for learning styles, we promote making connections between theory and practice as part of the ongoing interaction between teachers and students. This includes inverted lectures (quite productive in small groups), more seminars and workshops than lecture hours, working with mentors to develop independent work skills, exploring sources, formulating topics for essays, and choosing Majors and Minors. We try to provide our students with solid theory and make sure that it does not remain just an abstraction. To achieve this, we offer series of hands-on sessions in key subjects, workshops on legal writing, and other sessions on basic legal skills.
- Where will your program graduates work?
- The LLA program has a lot to offer those who are interested in jurisprudence in the broad modern context. We see its graduates in three areas: the public area – as public lawyers of members of the academic community; corporate (corporate lawyers, consultants); and an international and multilingual environment. Accordingly, the program offers three different tracks for years 2-4. Furthermore, there are additional educational trajectories along with the legal profession – participants can study journalism or international relations. As for our graduates’ value system, I say we will try to foster their interest in the profession as well as the idea of an ethical responsibility for our actions. The LLA program is delivered in several small and, hopefully, friendly study groups.
- What Minors does the program offer?
- Minors are additional educational trajectories. The concept actually originated abroad. In Russia, the Higher School of Economics has adopted it. Minor accounts for 1/12 of their four-year program hours. In LLA, it accounts for about 1/6 of the curriculum. LLA students will be doing their Minors separately, not joining any other students at the Academy. These trajectories will be implemented by other RANEPA units; some of the disciplines will be taught by specially invited teachers. Your Minor can serve one of the two purposes – it can be a chance to try something entirely different, completely outside your field of study, as in a lawyer taking computer science, or to embrace a related area that expands your Major (for example, global jurisprudence plus international relations).
- How important is it for a modern law student to take part in extracurricular activities? Why is it important?
- I believe extracurricular activities are important for all students. It is about creativity, experience in organizing others, and sports, of course. Being creative is like breathing; without it, one gets so deeply engrossed in their work or studies, they don’t even have a chance to look around. The experience of organizing events gives one a feel of responsibility for themselves and for others. You realize that you can't just say ‘I can't do it, I can't, I failed it.’ You continue looking for solutions, negotiating with people, finding common grounds. Sport is important for your body and mind – you learn how to take a blow, overcome your weakness through pain.
Extracurricular activities help develop something commonly called soft skills. Personally, I learned all those skills in college by organizing public debates, running a film club, participating in the What? Where? When? club games and other tournaments and more.
- Why did you personally decide to develop this program?
- It was a gradual process. Oleg Zaitsev and I, and our other colleagues took part in the discussions organized by Anna Sorokina as part of the Russian Bar Association’s commission on legal education. We discussed flexible and rigid models of higher education; the speakers talked about educational models in different countries, compared those systems, and identified problems in modern legal education. The program took shape by the academic year 2020-2021. Its concept is consonant with what my colleagues and I have been proposing in recent years: in particular, we wanted to create an academic track dedicated to law research. It turned out to be a great symbiosis, and I really hope that it will be a success.
- Is individualized approach important when studying jurisprudence, or would it make more sense to create uniform conditions that meet modern requirements in the legal sphere?
- Legal education – just like medical education – traditionally includes a rigid core that is difficult to change, while other social and humanitarian tracks are more flexible. But even in legal education, individualization is important nonetheless. I believe the number of compulsory legal disciplines needs to be reduced. A four-year bachelor's degree is not enough to study them in full, so it would make more sense to expand the elective part of the program. In our program, we supplemented this rigid core with three elective tracks. By choosing one of them, the student picks their educational trajectory for their senior years. Another major decision is choosing your Minor. It can either complement the Major, or provide additional specialization that is not strictly related to law. Personally, I am in favor of choice and individualization: the older the student, the more choices they need to be allowed to make.
- What are the advantages of your program compared to traditional law programs?
- Its biggest advantage is the innovative approach to education. The program is rich in content and unusual in structure; challenging, but interesting. We expect ambitious, strong, and versatile students who will interact with a friendly team of motivated teachers. An individual approach to learning, a combination of theory and practice, a focus on modern processes – those are the benefits of our Legal Liberal Arts program.