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Pioneering Legal Ethics Courses in the Arab Countries of the Middle East: Case Studies from Qatar, Palestine and Egypt (Program)

Mutaz Qafisheh, Hebron University (Palestine); Mohamed Mattar, Qatar University College of Law (Qatar) (Moderator); and Essam Zanati, Assuit University (Egypt)

Pioneering Legal Ethics Courses in the Arab Countries of the Middle East: Case Studies from Qatar, Palestine and Egypt

This program explores the status of teaching legal ethics and professional responsibility in three universities in the Arab world, Qatar University College of Law, Hebron University College of Law and Political Science in Palestine and Faculty of Law at Assuit University in Egypt. The law that covers the legal profession will be introduced, including the Qatari Law No 23 of 2006, the Palestinian Law No 3 of 1999 and the Egyptian Advocate Law of 1983. While these laws provide the basis for the attorney-client relationship, such as the confidentiality agreement, avoidance of conflict of interest, and qualifications for practice of law, they lack many of the ethical rules, principles, and guidelines that promote competence, continuous legal education, corporate social responsibility, and pro bono legal services. This session will address means of legal reform relying upon comparative models and best practices. The session will also present models of teaching legal ethics, either as a separate course, as a part of procedural courses, or within law clinics that were newly established in these universities. A number of students will present their experiences in learning about rules of legal representation, legal aid, legal education and legal advocacy, as well as the role of lawyers in defining issues of public interest, such as combating human trafficking, corruption or other illicit practices. Instructors will share their syllabi to demonstrate ways that have been used to incorporate clinical and experiential methods of teaching.


Mutaz Qafisheh: Ethics Without a Law: The Crisis of Professional Responsibility in Palestine

In Palestine, as the case in most countries of the Arab region, legal ethics are largely not codified. Most of the existing 12-law schools, if any, teach legal ethics. In the popular culture, the best lawyer is the liar. Honest lawyers are considered as weak and mostly remain obscure. There is no clear penalties, save to disciplinary measures by the Bar Association, for those lawyers who break client's confidence, "sell" their clients to the other party, or miss a court session that leads the client to prison.

This paper explores the potential of reforming the system of legal ethics in Palestine as a case in point from the Middle East. It starts by discussing the lack of teaching legal ethics in law schools and the prospects of integrating teaching of ethics in the curricula. It then moves to analyze the practice of legal ethics as part of the Palestinian Bar Association's rules, and suggest ways to reinforce the modest attempts to improve the status quo. It gives a background on legal education and how the currently booming legal clinics may contribute to the adoption of professional conducts, through training and pro-bono activities, for future lawyers. It offers certain directions for reforming legal ethics by learning from other experiences in the world, such as adapting the ABA's "Model Rules of Professional Conduct" to the Palestinian context. It finally highlights obstacles facing the reformation of legal ethics and ways to overcome them.

Mohamed Mattar: Incorporating Clinical Methods in Teaching the Fundamental Principles of Legal Ethics for the Legal Professions: The View from Qatar University College of Law

Qatar University College of Law is the only academic institution in Arab universities that offers its students a separate, independent and credit hour course on legal ethics and professional responsibility. The course is taught by the first Clinical Professor of Law in the Arab region. The course utilizes the experimental and clinical methods of learning.

The purpose of this session which will be presented by students who took the course is to share their experience, knowledge, and values that they gained. While a traditional course in legal ethics addresses the attorney- client relationship, this course discusses this relationship by introducing to the students the concepts of corporate social responsibility, legal aid to the vulnerable communities and legal advocacy. It chooses combating corruption as an example of a public interest issue that should be the focus of attention of all lawyers. It also covers human trafficking as a case study for what ethical rules should a lawyer follows in presenting victims of crimes. Each panelist will share perspectives on different aspects (including the impact) of the program. The session will provide illustrations of how the instructor used interactive methods of teaching giving the students the greatest role. The law of Qatar that governs the practice of the legal profession is the Law No 23 of 2006. It consists of 77 articles. Every student was responsible for 5 articles and was asked to explain every article in light of international standards and comparative models and to provide court cases that apply the rule stipulated in the article. The result was an explanatory note or a legislative guide for the law that was produced in a student publication for the first time. The students were also asked to compile another publication on 100 best practices on legal ethics legislation utilizing the sources of the 94 diplomatic missions in Doha. To promote pro bono legal services to the vulnerable communities, students were instructed to conduct interviews with law firms inquiring into their corporate social responsibility policies and culture of volunteerism.

The session will also focuses on how the course enhanced the skills of the students. The course included exercises on drafting a code of conduct for legal aid providers and drafting a contract detailing the attorney-client relationship. Finally students debated in small groups several issues including whether there are universal rules of ethics that may be implemented by lawyers around the world regardless of the national context, whether there are common rules of ethics that may apply to all legal professions or even all professions and finally whether a lawyer who has been assigned a case by the court can refuse legal representation on religious grounds.  Copies of the syllabus of the course will be distributed among the attendees of the session.

Essam Zanati: Role of Legal Clinics in Promoting Student Legal Ethics

This paper includes a demonstration of Assuit legal clinic's outcomes relative to professional ethics. In particular, the clinic's activities, especially concerning women’s and children’s rights and the impact of human trafficking, have a great influence on the trends and conduct of students in the following areas: 1) using law for social interest; 2) the respect of privacy; 3) social inequality and discrimination; 4) women’s status in rural regions; 5) enhancing women’s capacity; 6) the independence of legal profession; and 7) pro bono responsibility.

View other papers within this theme.