On the road to Samarkand

Law students in Central Asia relying on 1960s Soviet Union text books for their understanding of British law have had their resources and knowledge updated by the Law Society's latest book bus venture.

The book donation was part of a week-long course on English law held by a group of 20 UK law students, trainee lawyers and solicitors as part of the Law Society's Book Bus and Bar Leadership Training project.

About 100 law students and young lawyers from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan attended the course, held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Andy Unger, a member of the Law Society's Central and Eastern European and former Soviet Union working party, said the law faculties in both countries were hungry for current legal texts.

“The only real text books they have are 1960s Soviet Union texts,” said Unger, who was instrumental in establishing the project.

The visit targeted law students facing new roles in business that were unheard of under communism. Unger said the visit would offer an insight into the workings of the western-style democratic market.

“After 70 years of communism their idea of a free market and of democratic society can be very unrealistic,” he explained.

“By discussing basic issues such as compensation for a road accident or setting up a small business, we can give them an idea of how our system works.”

He said the course included a mock jury trial, as the lawyers were not familiar with the concept. “They have a continental system of judges,” he explained.

Unger added that there was also great interest in the five factors for divorce in the UK because it was only necessary to prove irretrievable breakdown of the relationship in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Local students were familiar with arbitration but had no concept of mediation. Compulsory insurance and full compensation for negligence were also new to them.

Two law faculties and a business faculty each received more than 65 legal texts, donated by law publishers Sweet & Maxwell and Butterworths.

The visit was funded by the British Government's 'Know How' fund.