U.S. law schools are funding degrees for Ukrainian lawyers

Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports
  • Law schools at the universities of Pittsburgh, Miami and Florida will host Ukrainian LL.M. students in the fall
  • Pittsburgh's program is the largest, with six lawyers

(Reuters) - The University of Pittsburgh School of Law is working to bring a half dozen Ukrainian lawyers to the United States to spend a year studying and doing pro bono work related to their home country.

The initiative is part of the school's Ukrainian Legal Assistance Project, which aims to apply human rights law and other legal remedies to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The university committed to paying the Ukrainian LL.M. students' tuition and covering their travel and living expenses as needed.

“Three days after the war started, we said, ‘We have to do something.’ And this is what we came up with,” said Charles Kotuby, head of the law school’s Center for International Legal Education, which is spearheading the project.

Pittsburgh is not the only U.S. law school hosting Ukrainian lawyers next year, though its program may be the largest. The University of Miami School of Law and the University of Florida Levin College of Law have created scholarships for a Ukrainian law graduate to attend their LL.M programs. LL.Ms are year-long masters programs in U.S. law for people with law degrees from other countries.

Pittsburgh spread word to potential candidates on social media through its network of about 30 Ukrainian alumni, and through Kotuby’s network of contacts at law firms in Kiev. Kotuby recently joined the law school after 20 years in law firm Jones Day's global disputes practice.

The school is now helping the students obtain visas. Most are women who have fled Ukraine and are currently in European countries, though Pitt has accepted two men who hope to participate if allowed. Ukraine’s conscription rules require men aged 18 to 60 to remain in the country.

The Ukrainian lawyers will take classes alongside J.D. students and work on pro bono projects ranging from documenting human rights violations connected to Russia's invasion to advancing legal reforms in their home country.

Details of the projects are still being worked out, Kotuby said, but he is collaborating with the Ukrainian Justice Alliance — a European coalition of lawyers, law firms, and non-governmental organizations that is aiding the Ukrainian government and citizens on legal matters.

Pittsburgh's law school has a track record of educating lawyers from troubled countries. It hosted LL.M students from Kosovo in the early 2000s and is also funding six Afghan lawyers to spend the upcoming academic year in its program, Kotuby said.

Read more:

From Kyiv's outskirts to the U.S. midwest, law students stand up for Ukraine

European law offices open doors to Ukraine's displaced law students

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com