U.S. law schools are funding degrees for Ukrainian lawyers

The University of Pittsburgh School of Law is working to bring a half dozen Ukrainian lawyers to the United States to spend a year studying and doing pro bono work related to their home country.

The initiative is part of the school’s Ukrainian Legal Assistance Project, which aims to apply human rights law and other legal remedies to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The University committed to paying the Ukrainian LLM students’ tuition and covering their travel and living expenses.

“Three days after the war started, we said, ‘We have to do something.’ And this is what we came up with,” said Charles Kotuby, head of the law school’s Center for International Legal Education, which is spearheading the project.

Pittsburgh is not the only U.S. law school hosting Ukrainian lawyers next year, though its program is the largest. The University of Miami School of Law and the University of Florida Levin College of Law have created scholarships for a Ukrainian law graduate to attend their LLM programs.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Law is also helping the students obtain visas. Most are women who have fled Ukraine and are currently in European countries, though the school has accepted two men who hope to participate, if permitted. Ukraine’s conscription rules require men aged 18 to 60 to remain in the country.

The Ukrainian lawyers will take classes alongside J.D. students and work on pro bono projects ranging from documenting human rights violations connected to Russia’s invasion to advancing legal reforms in their home country.

Details of the projects are still being worked out, Kotuby said, but he is collaborating with the Ukrainian Justice Alliance — a European coalition of lawyers, law firms, and non-governmental organizations that is aiding the Ukrainian government and citizens on legal matters.

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