This academic year, a group of Ukrainian attorneys will attend the University of Pittsburgh School of Law as part of a new scholarship program designed to help Ukraine as Russia’s assault on the nation continues.
The Ukrainian Legal Assistance Project was founded by Pitt’s School of Law to serve as a source of free legal aid from the United States to educate Ukrainian lawyers who intend to return home and prosecute the war in their nation.
Students will have their tuition paid in full, and many will also receive funds to cover housing and other living expenses.
The one-year program will focus on how to employ “lawfare,” or the use of the law by a nation against its enemies, to hold Russia responsible for its transgressions of international law. At the end of the year, students will earn an LL.M. or master’s degree in law.
Students enrolled in the program will do pro bono work at law firms and non-governmental organizations to help war-torn Ukraine, according to project founder Charles Kotuby.
He added that these tasks could include documenting war crimes, assisting in prosecuting human rights violations and other international legal claims, and writing academic scholarships and op-eds.
“Not only are we training them to be future leaders in their country, but we’re going to be doing real legal work,” Kotuby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They’re going to be helping their country on a variety of fronts during this war.”
This isn’t Pitt’s first foray into international conflict. During Kosovo’s independence struggle in the early 2000s, the school educated students from the country. A member of that cohort went on to become the president of Kosovo in 2020.
Kotuby also stated that the school has recently begun funding young lawyers from Afghanistan, where the Taliban took over last year. They will join Pitt’s LL.M. program in the fall alongside their Ukrainian counterparts.