Last week was the first, but definitely not the last, international live video-conference discussion between law students in Ukraine and Chicago.
Students staffing the Kiev National Economic University Street Law clinic in Ukraine had hosted movie nights several times before. It was part of their effort to build camaraderie among the members by viewing and discussing interesting law-themed films, many of them American. When Street Law’s Lee Arbetman and Ben Perdue visited the clinic last year, they realized this has potential for cross-cultural communication—and the international law-themed movie event was born.
Staff from Kiev National Economic University (KNEU) and Loyola University Chicago School of Law planned this virtual gathering for months. A Loyola student suggested the film, “A Civil Action” (the book is also required reading for all 1Ls at Loyola Law). The worldwide law firm of DLA Piper, a key Street Law partner, agreed to host the event in their teleconference facilities. The firm opened their offices in not just Chicago and Kiev, but also Washington, DC, so Lee Arbetman could join in and help guide the discussion.
Both groups of students viewed the film ahead of time. Then, on the appointed day, Professor Mary Bird of Loyola gathered her students at DLA Piper in Chicago, Professor Evhenia Kolomiyets-Ludwig and her students went to DLA Piper in Kiev, and Lee Arbetman took his station at the firm in DC. Evhenia provided translation for the students in Kiev who needed it, although several were able to address the assembled students in English. (Evhenia even held several practice sessions so her students could each introduce themselves in English!)
Lee and the two professors moderated the discussion. Lee said afterwards, “It reminded me how passionate young people are about environmental issues. It isn’t a country issue, the issue is global. So the movie was very relevant.” He added that live, cross-cultural communication among law students from different countries on a common topic reinforces the fact that we live in a small and “shrinking” world.
Anna Guzhva, director of the Street Law clinic at KNEU, wrote on Facebook: “Today it was a single atmosphere of legal spirit, support and motivation. I am grateful to all who took part in this wonderful event.”
Among the topics discussed were specific legal issues regarding the role of government vs. the private sector in enforcing environmental regulations. It gave the students an opportunity to communicate on issues that aren’t typically covered in law school curricula.
Afterwards, the Loyola students expressed interest in repeating the experience in the future. For their part, the Kiev students went to a local café and kept talking for two more hours.