Going Around the Law

I never went to a law school in the United States – but I would imagine that they essentially they teach you about law, its interpretation, and its enforcement.  Not so in Ukraine – there, legal complexities of the system lead to something different.

Last week I was in Kyiv, Ukraine where we held a rather interesting seminar at one of the country’s top universities.  After the seminar, I got to spend some time with law school students and learn a little bit more about their education.

They were quite open about the problems of Ukraine.  They were even more open about the quality of their education.  Especially after I highlighted some of the numbers from the Doing Business Database, where Ukraine ranks 181 in the world in dealing with construction permits as well as in paying taxes, 141 in registering property, and 134 in starting a business.

“This is not a problem,” I was told.  Law school professors know all this, and they don’t just teach about the complexities of the law.  They tell students about how things work in real life, how to go around the law, how to get third parties to get things done when necessary.

Of course, there are two ways of dealing with bad laws.  One, is to go around it – this is commonly known as corruption: you pay bribes to get things done where, otherwise, they will not.  The second, less obvious, is to actually change bad laws and inject a bit more efficiency into the system.

Yet, the concept advocacy for legal change remains elusive, especially in a country like Ukraine where policy debates for so long have been hi-jacked by politics.

I wonder if law schools in Ukraine can focus more of their attention on real advocacy – no one knows better than their faculty about inefficient laws and their negative impact on the country’s development.  Such efforts will go a long way in building a prosperous Ukraine and would be a much better use of talent and knowledge than teaching kids about laws that don’t work and ways to go around them.

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