Remarks by Ambassador Yovanovitch at the Tomorrow’s Lawyer Project Launch

February 28, 2019
TRANSCRIPT

So, I just want to say how pleased I am to be here.

You guys clapped when we got onto the stage, but really, I think the applause should go to all of you for participating in what is a really important program – Tomorrow’s Lawyer.

And we are so proud to be able to participate in this program, to be able to sponsor it, because we believe that all of you are exactly what the title of this program says.  You are the future of the legal profession here in Ukraine.  And as we all know, lawyers are so fundamental to pretty much everything a society does, whether it is drafting law, defending the innocent, providing assistance in courts.  Across the board, it’s important that lawyers and those in the legal profession have all the skills that they need in order to do their jobs as well as possible.

We know that, as you just said, all of you are playing an important and critical role in promoting democratic values, rule of law, and justice sector reforms in Ukraine.

And, you know, some of you may have heard me say this before, but it is something that I profoundly believe:  the way our societies handle the most vulnerable – whether it is providing them with the resources they need to live their lives, or the resources they need to defend themselves, when they have been unjustly accused – that is one of the most important elements of how democracies are judged.

And so, I want to thank each one of you for taking this so seriously and participating in this program.

We hope that Tomorrow’s Lawyer will provide you all with critical skills that are currently not taught in Ukraine’s law universities.  That includes effective communication, not only with each other, not only with fellow lawyers, judges, etc., but also with, perhaps, your clients, with people like me, who are interested, want to be supportive, but maybe don’t understand all the legal principles that you’re talking about.  Communication skills with those in the media, who often – even in the age of Facebook and Twitter, and all the direct media, social media contact – are so important to explaining to the rest of us in the society what is going on.

So, effective communication, I think, is super important and we hope that this program will help in that way.

The other part is effective written communication, whether it’s writing briefs, whether it is writing other kinds of documents that are effective and persuasive.  I think that is super important.

The third really important part, I think, is the issue of ethics, and giving you some hands-on experience with how do you resolve some ethical dilemmas.  Because all of us know – I’m looking out at the audience and you all obviously have experience – often the choices are not between right and wrong.  If it were just right and wrong, black and white, we would be able to make those decisions much more easily.

Often, there are shades of gray and what is the ‘least worst’ answer and how do you do it in a way that not only delivers justice, but that leaves everybody feeling good about that decision, including you, because you all want to be proud of what you do.

So, I think that the issue of ethical dilemmas that we all face – upholding our professional code of conduct and our own moral code –  [is] tremendously important and tremendously important in Ukraine.  And you are, I think, at the leading edge of that.

Now, I haven’t done the training, but I’ve been told that the training is not going to be easy and that’s a promise.  Because the other part of the promise is that we hope that for all of you who are going to be taking the training this round, that it will really provide you with the skills that you need, that it will really establish you solidly to be leaders in your communities, even as you develop new professional connections and some personal friendships along the way.

So, to all of you – who are in this room today, and across Ukraine – the alumni are evidence of what you all can accomplish here in Ukraine.

I know that Tomorrow’s Lawyers have been agents for change in all sorts of important ways, by joining the Free Legal Aid system – which, again, is tremendously important, applying for positions within the Supreme and High Anti-Corruption Court, developing legislation on the Bar and Code of Legal Ethics, establishing social initiatives, increasing the quality of legal services, and improving accountability and access to justice for all Ukrainians.  These initiatives are just critical for Ukraine to further establish rule of law, justice for all.

This month of February is a month of five-year anniversaries, as we all know.  And five years ago, the Ukrainian people said they wanted dignity, and they wanted justice for all – they wanted one rule for everybody.  And I think what you were doing here today and what you are going to do when you go back home, is to help make that a reality for the Ukrainian people.

So I want to thank you for participating in this program.  This is important work.  There is no more important work.  And I wish you a lot of success in all of your endeavors.

Thank you.