Faculty of Law: Combining Research and Professional Training
— How does having ‘mega-faculty’ status change things for the Faculty of Law?
— For the Faculty of Law, it was not a merger as it was for many other faculties. So, we tend to think about it in terms of optimizing how we work in all three spheres of university life: research, education and administration. Several research centres have joined the faculty, thereby greatly encouraging cooperation between our study programmes and researchers. Furthermore, our academic council and those of individual undergraduate and graduate programmes have acquired new decision-making powers.
— Which issues were delegated from the university level to the faculty?
— We can make decisions faster on issues related to students (e.g., approving the topics of their theses, academic leave, etc.). Our committees on research and education shape the faculty’s policies in these areas, as well as reach decisions on providing financial support for conferences, academic travel, visiting scholars, etc. On one hand, we are more aware of the needs of our research units and study programmes than a university-level committee could be. On the other hand, having resources at our disposal helps to prioritize specific projects and research areas. Our academic community, through its decision-making institutions, can now make informed decisions about the faculty’s development.
— Which research areas are most important for the Faculty of Law at the moment?
— Before I name the specific areas, I would like to point out that our departments combine research with actual legal practice. For instance, they take on PhD students and each department has its own research ‘school’. Some of our researchers and instructors are also members of dissertation committees and serve as experts on the Higher Attestation Commission, which, in turn, helps them to be not only good research advisors, but also prepare PhD students for the formal requirements of preparing and defending dissertations. The faculty focuses on several research areas, including comparative legal research, theories of law, and intellectual property law. It also carries out applied research for different governmental bodies with respect to the various legal issues of proposed policies and legislative changes.
As I mentioned, our faculty members are also active law practitioners. On the one hand, this really helps to attract students. On the other hand, it is impossible to be equally successful in all three roles – teaching, doing research and practicing law. Therefore, people tend focus on different aspects in this combination.
The faculty focuses on several research areas, including comparative legal research, theories of law, and intellectual property law. It also carries out applied research for different governmental bodies with respect to the various legal issues of proposed policies and legislative changes
The research centres within the Faculty of Law primarily focus on research and publications. For example, our Laboratory for Information Technology and Intellectual Property Law recently gained international status, and we are very happy with its performance. The results are quite impressive, whether we look at their publications in international peer-reviewed journals, the conferences and roundtables they organize, or the visiting scholars they attract, either to the laboratory itself or the Faculty of Law as a whole.
— What are the challenges faced by the Faculty of Law in its development of such projects and laboratories?
— In order to create a successful research laboratory, we need a team of people who not only share research ideas, but also a vision of how a particular research area might develop. I see the potential for new research labs, either within our departments or in cooperation with others. For instance, together with Skolkovo, we created the joint Institute for Law and Development, which provides expertise for various G20 projects, as well as publishes research articles. This institute combines the efforts of HSE’s Faculty of Law and that of Skolkovo and the international colleagues they invite.
We also have recruited faculty members from around the world. Since the law is usually very country-specific, we work best with people specializing in international and comparative law. They publish work in both Russian and international journals, and are active in representing HSE at conferences.
— Are there any other ways where the Faculty of Law is developing its international partnerships?
— We organize roundtables with our partner universities on a regular basis, as well as encourage participation not only for faculty members, but also undergraduate, graduate and PhD students. We also have strong relations with the Institute of Eastern European and Comparative Law of the University of Cologne. The year before last, our students and professors went to the University of Cologne, and this year we are receiving students from this partner at HSE. University of Cologne mainly focuses on constitutional law. In addition, we hold very productive academic events supported with funding from DAAD and HSE. As for the study of private law, our main partners are in France - Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis.
We have recruited faculty members from around the world. Since the law is usually very country-specific, we work best with people specializing in international and comparative law
Cooperation in research encourages partnerships in other areas, such as student exchanges and joint conferences. In the spring semester of 2016, we had five students from Université de Nice taking English-taught courses at HSE. This exchange programme is tuition-free for students, but their university nonetheless pays a fee to participate. Moreover, this spring, we held a conference on Russian law, as well as Russian and European education, at the University of Helsinki, which is also one of our partners. We are now organizing a special session for PhD students in the autumn. The Faculty of Law will select up to 10 participants, who will go to Helsinki to learn extensively about how to prepare a PhD thesis. Furthermore, they are actively involved in our partner university’s research activities.
— Students of the Faculty of Law actively and successfully participate in global competitions. What is the practical value of such competitions?
— Our students are very much encouraged to sharpen their practical skills, as well as make use of all opportunities available to develop such abilities. Participation in international law competitions is regarded positively by employers, and gives our students an extra edge in their professional life. In addition, students can better understand their international counterparts and try their hand at solving cases, while being engaged in a wide variety of issues. Of course, there is also a competitive streak within in these events - proving how good you are, measuring up against students from other countries, and also getting to know them.
Teachers and professors at the Faculty of Law are very much integrated in the global academic community. They also help students to prepare for competitions. As a faculty, we do our best to support these efforts, whether they are instigated by teachers or students.
Our students are very much encouraged to sharpen their practical skills, as well as make use of all opportunities available to develop such abilities
— Is there any correlation between the students who take part in academic exchange programmes and those involved in international competitions?
— Yes, often students participate in both of these activities. It is not easy to go away for a semester abroad when you are a student at the Faculty of Law, because students always have to catch up on issues related to the Russian legal system. Nevertheless, it is a very valuable experience that can provide students with a deeper understanding of other countries and more fluent command of the English language. Our students actively share their experience with each other, and those taking part in international competitions often get to coach the next year’s team.
— Could you tell us more about the system of support for international competitions in place at the Faculty of Law?
— One of the difficulties we face is that there are so many teams and, as such, we cannot support all of them. Thus, we focus on seven international competitions, which are the most important for us. We also try to keep an eye on teams making applications and do our best to support them. Of course, a great deal of support also comes from law firms sponsoring team participation.
— What are the faculty’s plans with respect to recruiting international students for English-taught courses or degree programmes?
— We are very pleased to see international students attend our courses presented in English. The faculty is now considering how best to organize these courses throughout the year, so that international students can stay on not only for one semester, but also for the entire academic year. We usually have exchange students from our partner universities in Germany, Norway and France.
There are always challenges when trying to offer law courses in a foreign language. Finnish universities are very advanced in this area. At the same time, even they teach international law in Finnish (with a few exceptions offered in English). We are thinking about offering more courses, so that students from partner universities can choose all courses available through the Faculty of Law. However, this also requires additional efforts for promotion of our courses among international students in order to attract a larger audience. At the moment, we are concentrating on fostering strong relations with partner universities and exchange students on a regular basis.
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