The winners of the 2024 National Client Consultation Competition have been announced
The winners of the 2024 National Client Consultation Competition have been announced

In Ostroh, the National Client Counstation Competition took place, where the strongest consultants from Ukrainian legal clinics competed for victory and the right to represent Ukraine at the international level.

The competition took place from March 7th to 9th, 2024, traditionally held at the National University “Ostroh Academy.” Eight teams from Ukrainian legal clinics participated:

  • Laboratory of Practical Law “Legal Clinic” of Ivan Franko Lviv National University
  • Legal Aid Center of the State University of Economics and Trade
  • Legal Clinic “Defense” of the National Academy of Internal Affairs
  • Legal Clinic “Veritas” of Lutsk National Technical University
  • Legal Clinic of Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University
  • Legal Clinic of Bohdan Khmelnytsky Cherkasy National University
  • Legal Clinic of the School of Law of the Ukrainian Catholic University
  • Legal Clinic of the Faculty of Law of Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University

Organized by the Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine, the Competition provided students with the opportunity to demonstrate and test their client counseling skills in real-life situations. Participants tackled complex legal questions in the field of international humanitarian law, sought solutions to ambiguous ethical situations, and attempted to provide consultations relying on their knowledge of laws and regulations. Traditionally, the competition was conducted entirely in English.

The organization of the Competition became possible thanks to the financial and organizational support of the law firms “Yevstigneyev, Sydorenko & Partners,” “AUGUSTUM,” “Law Firm “ARCEO,” the Law Firm “Yuliia Habruk,” and personally Artem Filipiev.

The theme of the 2024 Competition, International Humanitarian Law, was particularly notable. Throughout the various stages of the competition, teams encountered stories of civilians whose rights were violated due to the actions of occupiers, faced war crimes, and violations of laws and customs of war. Their task was not only to determine whether certain actions could be considered war crimes and provide appropriate consultation but also to deal with the emotions and experiences of clients, to be sensitive and careful in interacting with people with difficult experiences and psychological traumas.

According to Mariia Tsypiaschuk, the coordinator of the National Client Consultation Competition, these were some of the most challenging but also the most interesting competitions in the last 10 years. The theme of this year posed a particular challenge because participants personally perceived each story about crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine. At the same time, the semifinal scenario with fictional events also greatly challenged our teams, although it served as an excellent exercise for their skills and knowledge of International Humanitarian Law.

In reality, the preparation for the Competition involves a lot of work by a huge number of people: developers of scenarios, those who play the roles of clients, judges, our volunteers, and trainers from legal clinics, as well as the brave clinicians who dare to participate in this challenging event.

The cases that participants had to work on at all stages of the Olympiad were developed by:

  • Serhii Movchan, lawyer, head of the Department for Documentation of War Crimes of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union;
  • Marta Zmysla, lawyer, coordinator of the legal aid hotline “JurFem: Support”;
  • Delaine Swenson, law professor at the Catholic University of Lublin (Poland);
  • And the head of the Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine, Yuliia Lomzhets, helped adapt and structure them for the rounds.

Another full-fledged team worked at the Competition, which, although not competing, was an integral part of these competitions – the judging team. The judging panel consisted of professional lawyers, judges, attorneys, human rights experts, etc., who took on the mission of evaluating team performances:

  • Yuliia Lomzhets, head of the Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine;
  • Serhii Burov, executive director of the Human Rights Education House – Chernihiv;
  • Artem Filipiev, Head of the Legal Department of the Kernel group of companies, lawyer, Ph.D.;
  • Olexandra Skidanova, lawyer, representative of the Rivne Regional Branch of the NextGen Bar Community;
  • Oksana Muravska, lawyer;
  • Olena Kuvaieva, lawyer at the Strategic Litigation Center of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union;
  • Yuliia Khmaruk, lawyer, managing partner of the “Yulia Khmaruk Law Firm”;
  • Yana Sobko, Editor of “Lawyer,” Communications Manager of the Human Rights Education House – Chernihiv;
  • Valentyna Humenna, expert in personal data processing, archivist of the “War Archive” project.

The scores received from the judges were crucial for the teams as they determined the fate of each team. However, the judges’ recommendations and advice on various aspects of each consultation were equally significant: professional standards in client interaction, the emotional and psychological component during interviews, the nuances of applying legal norms, and considering various case circumstances.

The roles of clients this year were performed by both those who have been involved before and those who tried themselves in such roles for the first time this year (and – by the way – were very satisfied): Olena Androsova, Roman Shulyk, Oleksandr Novoseltskyi, Maksym Karpovets, Dina Baisan. Valentyna Humenna, besides judging, also brilliantly played the role of a client in the semifinal and final rounds. All these individuals are graduates or current lecturers and deans of faculties at the National University “Ostroh Academy”.

The Competition traditionally consisted of several rounds. In the quarterfinal stage, out of 8 teams, judges selected the top 6 teams of the strongest clinicians. They continued their struggle in the semifinals, and the judges’ evaluations led to the final round involving not 2, but 3 teams. The final consultations of the finalist teams were held publicly, adding to the nervousness and sometimes disrupting the balance, but the teams managed to overcome their excitement and show impressive results.

As a result of the final round of the Competition, the team of the Legal Clinic of Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University emerged as the winner. Under the guidance of Prof. Liliia Amelicheva, Vladyslava Rovinska and Kateryna Voloshyna earned the right to represent Ukraine at the Brown-Mosten International Client Consultation Competition.

Competing against the winners in the final were the teams from the Laboratory of Practical Law “Legal Clinic” of Ivan Franko Lviv National University (second place) and the Legal Clinic of the School of Law of the Ukrainian Catholic University (third place).

The 2024 National Client Counseling Olympiad not only confirmed the high level of preparedness of participants but also their readiness to work with emotionally challenging cases, provide assistance to those affected by war, and defend their rights. Another equally important conclusion for the Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine was the confidence that working on improving legal education and developing practical skills for future lawyers is necessary and receives significant support from the professional community. We express our gratitude to all friends and partners who contributed to the organization of this year’s Olympiad!

The winners of the 2024 National Client Consultation Competition have been announced
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