Kosovo’s current status is primarily the result of the turmoil of the disintergration of Yugoslavia, particularly the Kosovo War of 1998 to 1999. Following the 1999 NATO bombings of Yugoslavia, the territory came under the interim administration of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), most of whose roles were assumed by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in December 2008. In February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo declared Kosovo’s independence as the Republic of Kosovo. Since then, over seventy countries have recognised Kosovo, and it has joined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Serbia continues to reject Kosovo’s independence and subsequently sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality under international law of Kosovo’s independence declaration. On 22 July 2010, the ICJ ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law, which its president said contains no “prohibitions on declarations of independence”.

Since Kosovo’s transition to a peaceful and independent state, the legal profession has faced a broad range of difficulties. The ethnic divide in Kosovo was strongly evidenced when between 1989 and 1999 Albanians were restricted from practising law, and many Kosovar Albanian lawyers dropped out of the profession altogether. As a direct result, the numbers practising law are insufficient to meet the need for legal services. In particular the need for a diverse legal profession is seen where small communities have little or no legal presence due not only to isolation, but also social barriers that preclude communication with lawyers from other ethnic groups. Moreover the current generation of lawyers have little experience in matters of commerce and trade. They are ill equipped to deal with increasingly complicated business transactions or engage in the emerging emphasis on the protection of human rights. There is a lack of continuing education for lawyers, with little importance placed on professional and ethical standards.

In 2007 the Law Society and the Bar Council were approached by the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates (KCA) to assist in the establishment of an independent professional training body for lawyers in Kosovo. The KCA is an independent self-governing body of lawyers, reconvened in 2002, whose mission is to advance the rule of law through the professional implementation of laws, offering of client services, advancing of legal reforms and protection of its membership. KCA seeks to improve the reputation of lawyers in Kosovo and to advance their professional knowledge of law enforcement.

The KCA identified the need for a law school that would bridge the gap between university education and professional life by focusing on extending professional knowledge, developing practical skills and promoting ethical standards. The project arose following a training programme held by the Law Society for representatives of the KCA in 2007 where they had the opportunity to observe the operation of the Law School in Dublin. In October 2010 the initial weeklong pilot course focused on four modules: Professional Conduct and Management, International Human Rights, Business Law and Advocacy and Skills. It is envisaged that the course will be followed by a five-week course each year from 2011 to 2013. Thereafter the course will continue annually but will be run by the KCA, with IRLI taking a supporting role.

Building a culture of rule of law requires an appreciation of the concept and its components by lawyers and law students alike. Lawyers have an important role to play in instilling a lasting tradition of rule of law and this highlights the importance of projects involving the development and review of legal training

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This project is funded by Irish Aid