All should change; invariability is the enemy of the good. Everyone
got accustomed to the November international conferences at the Law
Faculty, and as this conference became a tradition, there is a place for
abrupt turnabout and beginning a new cycle. So, the Convention became
the beginning of something new, a previously untested form, when “the
situation is not the same anymore”, and now lectures step up after speeches,
sections go on after roundtable discussions. There is not a moment’s
peace, three days in the rhythm of eventful life, and no one could stop
even afterwards. I always say that everything in life must have a goal, it
is impossible without it. So the main goal of the Convention is not an
ordinary organization of the event, the goal is to inflame hearts and ignite
the inner engine of Law Faculty students; it should become a starting point,
like the moment of stoking the furnace of a train, from which movement
forward stirs to develop legal science and the education of those who will
become the next generation of the Russian legal professional elite. And it
seemed to me on the third day of the Convention that it was marked by
a train’s whistle, as if there were a train, that had visited the Convention
for three days and then departed for the future, to new horizons.
History of conferences and educational events at the Law Faculty of Kazan Federal University
The establishment and development of the Law Faculty as a center of classic legal education, a cradle of various talented scholars and research areas of contemporary jurisprudence, was largely determined by keeping to scholarly traditions. A spirit of freedom, creative work and the democratic nature of teaching at Kazan Federal University, the impact of the best achievements from the cultures of the East and the West still make the atmosphere special. And it is not due to coincidence that the foundation of the Law Faculty was formed by the merger of theory and practice, in the harmony of the educational process and the research work of professors and students.
One of such forms is the Annual November International Conference for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The tradition of holding this annual student conference was established on 12 November 2004. It began only at the Russian national level, but soon entered the international arena in 2006. The first Russian national student conference “Two Centuries of Legal Science at Kazan Federal University: Student Scientific Society” was organized at the initiative of the Student Scientific Society of the Law Faculty and with the support of the Faculty Administration. And there were impressive results already in 2008: 350 people participated via the Internet and 150 as full-time participants, from among whom 70 participants were from different regions of Russia and three from foreign countries, all of whom participated in the work of the International Scientific-Practical Conference for undergraduate and postgraduate students, dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. By 2013 the scope of the annual conference for undergraduate and postgraduate students had become truly impressive. There were about 1,000 entry submissions, 500 participants, dozens of conference partners and full media coverage – a great step in the development of this kind of event. Even with such diverse forms of participation, new forms of participation still appeared during this conference. Every year prominent representatives in legal science and practice attend to lead master classes. Distinguished guests in 2013 included V.-A. Petrushkin, Doctor of Jurisprudence, sitting judge of the Federal Arbitration Court of the Volga region, and Victor Pasternak, partner in the law firm Martynuk, Pasternak and Partners. The conference was organized on the topic “Intersystem and Inter-branch Relations in the Legal Sphere” and dedicated to the memory of Professor M.-Yu. Chelyshev. The tenth conference in 2015 summarized and opened a new stage in the legal science activities of an entire generation of students of the Law Faculty.
Background of the First International Scientific-Practical Convention
A complete and thorough rebranding and restructuring of the conference became a cornerstone for the new stage of its development, which resulted in the creation of a brand new product: the “Legal Convention”.
The International Scientific-Practical Convention for undergraduate and postgraduate students is the successor and continuator of the traditional November international conference held by the Law Faculty.
During the more than ten years of the November conferences great work was done, as evidenced by the more than one thousand applications for participation submitted by undergraduate and postgraduate students from a variety of Russian cities and foreign countries, and also by the collection of written materials, which were published in 2015, filling five volumes. Over these ten years the November event became not only widely known, but also obtained the status of a “brand” of the Law Faculty of Kazan Federal University. The conferences were attended by many outstanding scholars, including our foreign colleagues. Additionally, the event established itself not only as a talent factory, but also as a forum in which to make professional contacts in the various fields of the law.
Over the course of this period of time, the Law Faculty welcomed over 4,000 students from more than 10 countries and 300 cities. More than 30 percent of senior students were not only involved in legal science, but here they refined their theoretical knowledge in practice.
In 2016, the Student Scientific Society came to the decision to change the format of the event. The Convention is a synthesis of the best practices of organizing conferences, summer schools, scientific forums and roundtables. It allows not only the exchange of opinions on current issues of law, but also to pose questions on legal practice and its developing trends and to have those questions answered. It includes an extensive educational program.
The concept of symbiosis and synthesis of science and practice
The key idea behind the Convention is to put great focus on the educational part of the program. The event is unique, not only for its legal science content, but also for the specifics of its organization, as it merges the theoretical (scientific) and educational (practical) components (the Convention program includes workshops moderated by leading legal experts, the work and discussions at roundtables, legal science panel meetings); in addition, there is a cultural component for participants (which includes visits to Kazan Federal University and excursions around Kazan city).
This year the event continued for three days instead of the usual two. This change allowed the creation of a platform upon which students were able to encounter scientific and educational as well as practice-oriented fields of law in the first block of the Convention during the first and last day of the program. This block was devoted to workshops moderated by practicing lawyers, and included open lecture and specialized profile roundtables in which both academics and practitioners were present. Moreover, the last day gave participants an opportunity to view legal practice in a very different light through the game of “Legal Quest”, which allowed them the experience of finding themselves in various theoretical and practical situations: from legal analysis of normative acts to dactyloscopy (identification by comparison of fingerprints).
The second block presented the familiar standard framework of conference organization. It contained panel meetings on more than fifteen branches of legal science. Within the framework of each panel attendees presented their research papers, ideas, comments and opinions on current issues of legal science and law enforcement practice to the competent jury.
In this way the Convention combined the best practices and the best experiences of past events, and presented participants with the possibility to get their bearings in practice-orientation, as well as bringing forward discussion points in law-enforcement practice, which were resolved by the participants themselves.
Scientific and educational component
Following the ovation in the Assembly (Imperial) Hall of Kazan Federal University – which expressed great appreciation to Ilsur Metshin, Mayor of Kazan and Head of the Supervisory Board of the Law Faculty; Dmitry Tayursky, Vice-Rector of Education at Kazan Federal University; Liliya Bakulina, Acting Dean of the Law Faculty; Vasiliy Lihachev, member of the Central Election Committee of the Russian Federation; Elkin Iskanderov, President of the regional youth social organization “League of Students of the Republic of Tatarstan”; Dinar Valeev, Head of the Student Scientific Society of the Law Faculty, and other honorable guests of the event – for their warm welcoming speeches, the educational block of the Convention commenced. This was opened by Professor Askhat Kuzbagarov, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Head of Helsinki International Commercial Arbitration, who presented a lecture on the topic “Tort Liability: Theoretical and Practical Aspects”. Within the framework of the lecture, Professor Kuzbagarov tackled tort liability through the prism of law-enforcement practice and personal experience, which was noted and highly appreciated by many participants, who, throughout the lecture, were eager in anticipation to pose their questions and receive answers.
Immediately after the lecture the work of the roundtables began. The interactions proceeded inside four auditoriums, in each of which an atmosphere of heated discussion was very noticeable among the participants on the level of highly qualified specialists alongside professors and practicing lawyers from across Russia. Inside one auditorium, at the roundtable moderated by Professor Kuzbagarov, participants specializing in civil law discussed the unified civil procedural code and the unification of civil, arbitral and administrative procedures. The result of the work was the formation of a thesis on the necessity of procedural unification as an objectively correct and indispensable way of further development of the law and the stabilization of court practice. In an auditorium next door, the head of the law firm StroyCapitalInvest, which is one of the top one-hundred Russian law firms, discussed the issues and trends in legislation regulating entrepreneurial activity with the students. The roundtable on criminal law worked alongside the representatives of the civil law branch of the Faculty. Its work was conducted under the supervision of the Head of the Department of Criminal Law at Kazan Federal University, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Professor Maria Talan and Associate Professor Igor Antonov, the Head of the Department of Criminal Procedural Law and Criminalistics. Participants had the opportunity to discuss legislative gaps in Russian criminal law, the ways of overcoming them from the point of view of legislation and its practical realization, and also the trends in legal development in general. And, of course, how can we exclude the issues of international law during an international event? This exact issue was pinpointed in the framework of the roundtable on international law. It was remarked upon by the moderator of the roundtable, the Head of the Department of International and European Law of Kazan Federal University, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Professor Abdullin, that nowadays students not only understand the true sense of international documents relating to the protection of human rights, but also contribute new ideas and interpretations of their provisions.
The first day of the Convention did not end with this rich educational program only. The final part was the series of master classes by professionals in their legal craft, who shared their deep and invaluable experience with participants. Vasiliy Likhachev’s master class aroused genuine excitement among the attendees. The speaker, a member of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union, and graduate of Kazan Federal University Law Faculty, spoke on “Diplomatic and International Law of the Russian Federation Environment”. After delivering the lecture, Vasiliy Likhachev answered all questions, sharing his knowledge in the field, and also gave useful tips to the future lawyers. In this way the workshop flowed seamlessly into a conversation lasting more than two hours. The topic “Peculiarities of Proceedings in Military Courts” was presented by the Chairman of the Kazan Military Garrison Court Eduard Safonov. There is no doubt that this discussion was equally valuable and interesting. Another class for participants was held by Yury Lukin, practicing lawyer, the head of the scientific-research work of students of the Law Faculty, on “Legal Marketing: Collective or Individual”. In parallel, Assistant Professor of Business Law at Lomonosov Moscow State University Alexander Molotnikov delivered a presentation on the project “ProStranstvo” [“Area”], the main idea of which is the creation of a special platform upon which to improve and develop applied skills and competencies of students and university graduates.
Educational and cultural component
The third day of the Convention allowed participants to “relax” and enjoy the cultural component of the event. However, even a simple game at Kazan Federal University may provide small rest. The traditional game “What? Where? When?” within the walls of our alma mater charmed our guests: it included a block of legal issues to be resolved and a “quest” that left an indelible impression in the memory of the Convention participants.
“Legal Quest” gave participants the opportunity to try to pass a series of exciting tests, for which they received tips after solving tasks. They needed these tips (clues) in order to solve the main puzzle of the “quest”: Who is the murderer? To begin, the teams were shown a video to help them to eventually solve the main puzzle. The video was about the tests soon to come. Some teams passed the tests with difficulty, others considered them quite easy. The “quest” consisted of twelve tests altogether, following each of which the teams received the tips (clues). Here are some of the tests.
“Knowledge is Power”. Before beginning, the team was required to recite some poems, ditties, sing “Vladimir Central” [a famous song of criminals in Russia] and other songs to create a particular atmosphere. The task was for three members of the team to crawl their way through the “ventilation pipe” (arranged desks) to an exit, but it was not so simple, for at the critical moment they found that at the exit there was a biometric lock, which could be opened only with the leader’s fingerprints, and, pre-planned and thus to their consternation, the leader was the last one crawling.
In the “Legal Mosaic” one member of the team was blindfolded and the others had to follow him or her around, telling the person where to go. During the test it was necessary to collect together eight pieces of a picture and only after that did the team receive the tips.
“Save Evidence-Material Objects”. At first, the teams were asked to hold hands and perform twenty squat exercises. The next task was more interesting: one team member had to transfer to another an orange, and this had to be done by using any part of the body – except the hands. The same task was repeated with a pen and then with a bottle of water, again without using the hands.
“The Department of Document Management”. Teams had to find the mistakes in selected procedural documents in the fields of civil and labor law.
“Legal Speech Therapist”. One team member with a mouth full of popcorn had to try to explain to the team an Article of the Constitution.
And, of course, other tests and tasks as well.
Teams also were given additional tasks to perform during the breaks between tests: for example, to have a photo taken with the Dean of the Law Faculty. What is more, if answers given by the representatives of a team were not correct, the team members could be sent to “jail”.
The final test for the teams was called “Crime of the Century”, where with the help of the team leader’s tips team members had to figure out the way in which the unknown perpetrator had committed the crime. After collecting all the clues and examining and matching them together, the teams had to solve the puzzle and answer the fundamental question: Who is the murderer?
We can confidently say that the Convention is significantly different in format from the usual scientific conference and forum for students. It is the unique project of the Law Faculty of Kazan Federal University, inspired by its traditions.
Above all, it is the work of the roundtables. This form of interaction between the participants admits to avoid competition as in a fight to see who will win and who will lose, but rather it contributes to the creation of a dialogue between equals on existing legal science issues. Also, this form of interaction allows participants to concentrate on one issue, and not try to take on every issue extending throughout the entire legal realm. As the recent Convention showed, this manner of work is much more productive in terms of real results.
Additionally, the event lasted for three days instead of two. This was owing to the strong emphasis put on the educational program. The participants of the Convention had the opportunity to attend master classes oriented in four different legal directions.
Also worthy of mention is that the Convention’s cultural program generated only positive feedback from the participants. Students from all over Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States gathered together for the Convention and to visit the beautiful thousand-year-old city of Kazan, the third capital city of Russia.
In conclusion, it must be said that the Convention, as the new trend in the field of student legal science advancement, will continue to develop and grow, and should surely find admirers and loyal friends in the future.
Information about the authors:
Lukin Y.M. (Kazan, Russia) – Senior Professor, Department of Theory and History of State and Law, Project Chairman of Students of the Law Faculty, Kazan (Volga region) Federal University (420111, p/o box 627, for Lukin Y.M.; e-mail: Yu.firstname.lastname@example.org).
Valeev D.A. (Kazan, Russia) – Master student, Chairman of the Student Scientific Society of the Law Faculty, Kazan (Volga region) Federal University (Kazan, Kremlyovskaya st., 18; e-mail: email@example.com).
Makolkin N.N. (Kazan, Russia) – Bachelor student, Vice-Chairman of the Student Scientific Society of the Law Faculty, Kazan (Volga region) Federal University (Kazan, Kremlyovskaya st., 18; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Editor of English texts:
Iliya Kostin, Renata Nigmatullina, Aruzhan Erzhanova.