Lawyr.it is a student-run project aimed at offering law students coming from Central and Eastern Europe an opportunity to do legal research, write articles and find opportunities to develop their skills, as well as a platform to interact with other law students from the region. The project is built around a law journal called Lawyr.it which is published online three times per year, and features a Legal Dictionary, a rubric about Masters Abroad, an Opportunities section and a Blog. A live project, Lawyr.it keeps on developing through the contributions and ideas of its members.
Originally a small peer-reviewed journal with an editorial team of four Romanian law students, Lawyr.it is now present in over 10 countries from CEE and still expanding. With annual recruitment calls, the team now includes undergraduate and postgraduate law students from Romania, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Slovakia, Serbia, Greece, the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Lithuania, while we recently established connections with students in the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. Lawyr.it members are tasked with the promotion of the project in their universities, expanding our readership and challenging their colleagues in answering the magazine's open calls. Hence, Lawyr.it helps law students exchange ideas by offering them a platform to discuss, interact, share from their experiences, which is of particular importance in this part of Europe where cross-border cooperation, at least in law, is quite limited.
"My participation in Lawyr.it has been at the same time a creative and a constructive experience. In the one and a half year I have been a Legal Researcher, I watched the project grow through the input of its members, I was given the opportunity to conduct proper legal research for the Dictionary and the 'Refugee Crisis' report and I learned how to coordinate a small research team of ten students from multiple CEE countries. Most importantly, I had the chance to meet other students from the region, share my interests and plans with them and learn about the legal landscape in their countries, as well as where they stand on international issues, such the future of the European Union after Brexit. For me what is remarkable about Lawyr.it is not simply that it gives students the opportunity be heard, but also that it enables to listen to each other and use this experience to prepare themselves for their future career in a world where international cooperation is more important than ever before."
Angeliki Tsanta, Research Coordinator
In the fall of 2012, four Romanian students in their third year of law school wanted to participate in a creative project that would allow them to develop their legal research skills. At the time, there was no peer-reviewed law journal in Romania, so they decided to start one themselves: Lawyr.it would be a journal that tackles legal issues in a language and approach that makes them accessible to the larger public, not necessarily only to people with a legal background. Initially, people were skeptical about the legitimacy of university students issuing opinions on controversial legal issues, as the concept of a peer-reviewed journal was new to Romania. The editorial team of four students approached friends and acquaintances from the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, challenging them to submit articles, reviewed and edited them, built up the website and eventually, the first issue was published in December 2012. After its success, the project’s gained popularity grew across several other Central and Eastern European countries with more law students joining the project, who brought in new ideas and projects.
The Dictionary was the second project to be developed, including definitions of legal terms, translations and references, done in multiple languages. In time, law students coming from several countries started working not only on researching the terms, but also on translating them in Greek, French, German, Czech, Romanian and many others. The purpose was not only to encourage cooperation between law students from different countries, by opening the door to cross-border team work, but also to increase the accessibility of legal information to law students in the region. As the project grew, new team members began to develop additional projects, like the Opportunities rubric and the Masters Abroad, two rubrics which aim to foster cross-border exchange of ideas, inform law students about events and opportunities all across Europe, and build an easy-access platform with useful information, without any discrimination with regards to country, language or reputation of the law school.
II. The Magazine
Lawyr.it publishes three online issues per year, after an open call for articles which is shared by among its members and their universities. The major difference between Lawyr.it and other legal publications is the fact that we only accept submissions from students, as well as the fact that the entire editorial team comprises solely students.
As a project by students, for students, Lawyr.it intends to have a strong educational and entrepreneurial value, besides its obvious academic side. In reaching its goals, the team is always trying to encourage law students from every law school in the region to take the chance and submit and article to get involved in any way. Regardless of their year of study or country, any law student can submit legal articles, with the best of them being chosen for publication. We consider law students to be invaluable sources of solutions, ideas, and original analyses or approaches for different aspects of law, thus one of our goals is to encourage more law students to write, by providing a platform destined exclusively to them.
The other important aspect is that the editorial team consists solely of law students. Every year, the editorial team is refreshed after a thorough process of recruitment, which encourages all law students interested in contributing to the development of the project to apply. Moreover, the most remarkable and active students who submit valuable articles to be published in the magazine are often encouraged to apply for a Junior Editor position in the editorial team. Our team approaches every piece of content in a constructive manner, focusing on how the authors can improve in terms of content and structure, and we prepare extensive feedback for all authors whose articles have not been published.
Finally, as our goal is to interest a wide audience in prominent legal issues and prepare law students for their professional life where they must explain complicated legal matters to their clients, we promote material that avoids excessively legal terminology (legalese) which would make articles harder to read and comprehend by both non-legal readership (including clients) as well as law students or fresh graduates, who are not accustomed to using such a language in practice. Thus, the editorial team is encouraging writing two types of articles: (i) articles that, while clearly structured and formally well-written, are able to express legal ideas in a straight-forward, intelligible manner for the general audience; (ii) articles that focus on analyzing the practical impact of the different legal issues that are tackled, on comparative analysis or on identifying solutions to specific issues. We consider this type of skills essential for the professional life of any law graduate and valued by any employer, and we strongly promote any type of content that can add value in this direction. We also make sure to balance the focus of the material we public between the Lawyr.it countries, and to always include articles of international consideration.
Our issues are usually structured in the following way:
- First, there is a briefing section which includes a list of opportunities that might be of interest to law students, like internships, conferences, summer schools and competitions, along with the necessary information on how to apply. Articles on current issues are also included in this section; for example, in our most recent issue one of our legal researchers wrote a report on "The Brexit process, a novelty for the European Union". Finally, we always try to publish reports on conferences or talks attended by our members.
- The main sections of the magazine come next: 'Reflections', where law students submit their thoughts on political and legal issues, like "Turkey between Islam and European Union"; 'Domestic Focus' with articles on a particular country's internal legislation and important issues; and 'International Focus', including articles on international law concerns like "Unaccompanied migrant children in Greece". Quite often, we try to include a special report in the magazine, challenging the members of our team to write articles on a prominent legal topic such as the "One the Refugee Crisis" report, which was published in our January 2016 issue.
- Finally, there is a 'Professional Spotlight' rubric, where our members interview academics or legal professionals on their careers; the 'Question of the Issue' and the 'Devil's Advocate' section, featuring a legal debate between two young professionals on a highly controversial issue, such as "In light of Brexit, are referenda viable as democratic vehicles in the 21st century?"
III. Lawyr.it Dictionary
The Lawyr.it Dictionary is a database of English legal terms with simple definitions, drafted by our legal research team. Its purpose is to improve our reader's grasp of legal English, as well as aid any potential authors who wish to submit an article for the magazine. While drafting a definition, our legal researchers look for different interpretations of a term in different jurisdictions, other terms that might be connected to the defined one, as well as expressions where the term is used and their meanings. The definitions include references to relevant legislation and case law, online publications and books that discuss legal issues relevant to a term, as well as translations in several languages, including Romanian, French, German and Greek.
We believe that this project, unique in its structure, is one of the most helpful resources for law students that Lawyr.it has to offer, as it gives students the opportunity to work in an international team and learn from each other's jurisdictions, while creating a valuable database for all students in the region who gain access to English legal terms with translations in their own languages.
This rubric is aimed at informing law students about different opportunities that might be of interest for them, such as conferences, open calls for submissions, internships and competitions. As a sub-section of this rubric, we are currently developing a new project, featuring summer schools in Europe, which will promote short programmes that allow students to learn more about a subject that interests them, but also from one another.
We seek to post as many types of opportunities as possible, coming from different countries and referring to different legal fields. Through this rubric we wish to help students pursue their interests through extracurricular activities that will give them the chance to improve their CVs, hone their legal skills and meet other students with similar interests.
V. Masters Abroad
The Masters Abroad rubric is proof of how Lawyr.it enables its members to take initiative and develop their personal ideas; it is one of our most recent projects, established in December 2015 by one of our newly recruited legal researchers, and run by the members of the Legal Research team.
This rubric contains our team's research on masters for law students in European countries, organised in databases by country. We post information about masters that are open to international students (mainly in English, but also in French, German etc.). The Masters Abroad articles inform our readers about the possibility of pursuing a general or specialist LLM degree in Europe, and present the necessary information for the application process. We have currently covered a large number of European countries (South, Eastern and most of Central Europe), and thus this year the research will be focused on Western Europe (Germany, France, UK etc).
The aim of this rubric is to help other law students in their attempt to apply for a foreign LL.M. As we ourselves are an international team, we believe that any opportunity to study abroad is welcomed not only for the social and cultural benefits that it brings, but also for the professional ones.
"My experience as a Lawyr.it Legal Researcher had a great influence in my professional training. Firstly, because it gave me the chance to collaborate with team members from different countries and constantly adapt. Secondly, I professionalised my research skills, I learnt how to easily find information, synthesised it in a manner appealing for the specialist reader, but also for a non-specialist. Last but not least, Lawyr.it is still teaching me daily, even as an alumni and Board Member, that once you invest passion, dedication and effort in a project, it can be more than a success, it can be a career. Lawyr.it helped me build up a career in the legal field and to combine tech skills, soft skills and creativity with legal knowledge."
Daniela Olivia Ghicajanu, Board Member
VI. Lawyr.it and European Identity
Lawyr.it is a platform that allows law students from Central and Eastern Europe to explore other legal systems in the region, develop their legal writing skills, and enhance them in order to increase their accessibility to the job market, as well as find out about different professional, academic, or extracurricular opportunities that may be of interest for them. It offers young lawyers the opportunity to participate in a conversation with one another through their articles, compare the legal and political landscape of their countries and reach their own conclusions on how their similarities and differences affect their legal systems, while answering important questions.
What are a Greek law student's thoughts on the sovereign debt crisis, what do Hungarian students think of the European refugee policy, what is a Romanian law student's take on anti-corruption laws? And how does each national legislator deal with these issues? Lawyr.it encourages them to start thinking and facing such issues even before the start of their career, as well as develop an understanding with their neighbours and the way they see each other.
It also aids students in becoming informed professionals through the comparison of the laws of these countries: through the articles, students are able to see how a seemingly domestic legal issue might actually be a concern in neighbouring European countries as well, or they might find out how these other countries have dealt with issues that are only now beginning to surface in their own.
Finally, Lawyr.it also promotes this cultural understanding in a practical manner: the members of the team are part of a dialogue that allows them to discuss their concerns, help each other with legal questions, engage in academic discussions and of course learn more and be able to understand each other.
"My participation in Lawyr.it gave me important insights into different aspects of the legal profession. The drafting and organisational skills became especially relevant once I started to work in my field of interest; international arbitration. Lawyr.it also gave me a taste of communicating and working in a team of different nations, another invaluable experience for my career development for which I am forever thankful."
Oleksandr Zablotskyi, Lawyr.it Alumni