The School of Law (before 01.01.2016 the Faculty of Law) is one of the oldest faculties of the University of Tartu, where lawyers have been educated ever since alma mater as the classical universitas was founded (1632).
A new stage in the history of the faculty began when Estonia regained her independence (1991), which posed new challenges to the faculty. In the radically changed circumstances, the faculty set its main goals as follows:
the Faculty of Law has to measure up to the standards of a classical university in its content (research and education), organisation, and orientation;
the Faculty of Law with its best legal research potential in Estonia has to direct the development of an independent legal system, participate in legal drafting, having regard to the comparative experience of foreign countries;
the Faculty of Law has to ensure complementary training for lawyers.
Today, 18 years later, we can assure that the faculty has successfully pursued these goals. The faculty’s development during this time has not been without problems, but progress has been made that allows us to look into the future with optimism.
The faculty incorporates the bulk of Estonia’s legal research potential. The teaching staff has published articles important for the development of both Estonia’s statehood and legal doctrine, including in internationally recognised law journals and publishing houses. The teaching staff has published more than hundred Estonian monographs, textbooks and teaching aids. The research potential of the teaching staff has been used in structuring the Estonian legal order; they have played a remarkable role in shaping Estonian legal policy. The faculty publishes the most influencial Estonian law journal Juridica and its special English edition Juridica International. Law Review. University of Tartu that introduces the Estonian legal order and development of legal thought to foreign readers.
The faculty has become internationally recognised and has found collaboration contacts with many research centres and faculties of law of universities in Europe. The faculty is the only academic structural unit in Estonia where tuition is based on curricula accredited by the state in all levels of academic higher education (bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies). The law curricula reforms of 1993–1995; 2002 and 2008, the upgraded qualification of teaching staff, as well as the involvement of foreign lecturers and Estonian prominent lawyers in tuition has enabled to modernise the tuition process and bring it to level with European legal education requirements. Research-based tuition has ensured that graduates are able to assume positions requiring highly qualified lawyers (advocates, notaries, prosecutors, judges, etc). The graduates of the faculty are also successful in other areas – state and local government bodies, banks and various private companies. Many graduates have successfully continued master’s and doctoral studies in foreign universities.
With a view to the development prospects of the faculty and the entire area of legal science in Estonia, I am glad about the improved efficiency of degree studies, particularly during the recent years. Ten more members of the teaching staff intend to defend their doctorate theses in the forthcoming years.
As the university as a whole, so has the faculty finished a thorough curriculum reform, which provides for the application of the so-called 3+2 model. This means three-year bachelor’s studies and two-year master’s studies. Graduates receive a "full" lawyer’s diploma after completing master’s studies. The reform particularly required substantive reorganisation, the keyword of which is enhanced interdisciplinary nature, in which the focus is on teaching economics and social sciences, increasing active forms of studying and research-based tuition.
I am glad to say that the faculty has found understanding and support from Estonia’s leading legal institutions in solving its problems. The Supreme Court, the Ministry of Justice, the Estonian Bar Association, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Chamber of Notaries, the Chancellery of the Legal Chancellor, as well as lawyers’ associations such as the Estonian Academic Law Society (EAÕS), the Estonian Lawyers Union, the Estonian Association of Judges, etc. deserve to be mentioned.
The present status of the faculty enables to look into the future with optimism: development continues, new challenges posed by the changes in our society and in the whole world await.