Prince Sultan UniversityReaching out to the community through legal studies

Reaching out to the community through legal studies

Prince Sultan University’s College of Law is developing students’ knowledge and experience through valuable work in the wider community

The College of Law at Prince Sultan University (PSU) attracts students and faculty from around the world to its bilingual law programme. It is well known in Saudi Arabia for its high employability rate – a string of agreements with law offices and government departments, as well as a period of work experience before graduation, means undergraduates are in-demand candidates. It is also famous for its Moot law programme, where students compete in mock trials against other universities, gaining valuable advocacy and communication skills along the way. The college has more than 1,000 undergraduates on its roster, and its faculty come from more than 20 countries.  

But the college does not only excel in the theoretical side of legal studies. It is also produces well-rounded students by encouraging them to share their skills with the community, both locally and internationally. “We are a very active college with lots of extracurricular activities,” explains Zlatan Meskic, chair of the law department. “One of our main learning goals is to provide future leaders for society, and to not only share their knowledge with society but also learn from it.”

A prime example of this is the offer of pro bono legal services to citizens in Riyadh. About 15 faculty members take part in this programme, using the opportunity to teach students key skills they will need when advising clients. “It also spreads the idea that sharing knowledge for free, to those in need, can be beneficial,” Meskic says. There are several advantages to opening the legal clinic to the community. It reflects the university’s wider belief in the importance of voluntary work; it helps build sustainable and transferable skills for students; and it aligns with one of the goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which is to raise the number of volunteers in the country from 11,000 to more than a million. 

The Community Service Committee also offers a programme called Mahara – which translates to “skill” – to law students both inside and outside PSU. The Mahara programme runs twice a year and focuses on building key skills such as effective communication, analysis, legal technology and how to use the pleading system most effectively. This is offered both in-person and virtually so is accessible from across the world. College of Law lecturer Hanadi Al-Deeb says feedback for the programme has been overwhelmingly positive. “We get students from Canada, the US, across the Middle East,” she says. “Running it virtually means it is more convenient for all involved, including the lecturers running the sessions, which makes it easier to engage faculty members in what we’re doing.”  

Al-Deeb is co-chair of a team that runs the College of Law’s podcast. Established in 2019, it covers legal topics from company law to case studies and new legislation, and has attracted more than 10,000 listeners. A recent episode focused on electronic crime, looking at the legal intricacies of online scams and other digital offenses. “The podcast is very much led by the students. They suggest the guests and ask us what we think before they book them,” Al-Deeb says. “They handle all of the technical side, having taught themselves how to use the microphones, put together a montage and the like. We first offered it purely as an audio podcast, but we now also post videos of the episodes on YouTube.” 

Working with employers and government bodies in Saudi Arabia helps to extend the college’s community impact, Meskic says. Local non-governmental organisations have direct contact with people who may need assistance from the legal clinics, and the college works closely with the Saudi Bar Association. It increasingly provides research services for government bodies that require legal expertise and has signed a number of memorandums of understanding with commercial and government organisations to this end. Recent agreements include a memorandum of understanding with the National Unified Procurement Company, and the General Secretariat of the Zakat, Tax and Customs Committees to develop research in economic, tax and customs disputes. 

These partnerships have a mutual benefit. “Usually, our partnerships with local offices are based on students going there to do their cooperation or practice, but they also come for events and guest lectures,” Meskic says. “They want our students as they are talented candidates and are happy to promote themselves at PSU careers fairs.” 

The college is keen to expand students’ international outlook and intends to expand international partnerships with other universities. PSU covers about 70 per cent of the cost for law students who wish to study abroad for a summer course and has developed agreements with King’s College London and Duke University in the US, alongside a course in Saarland in Germany on EU Law. “We also have international experts come in to teach, either online or in person, including [international arbitration expert] Gary Born,” Meskic says.

The college has an eye on the role that law can play in environmental campaigns and sustainability and has presented papers at an international conference on the legal challenges of sustainability, which Meskic says is “a huge topic for universities and Saudi Arabia in general”. In future, the college intends to offer more courses in this area and expand modules within other courses to reflect the importance of the issue. “It’s important that students are involved in sustainability because we’re building the future generations of experts in this field,” Meskic concludes. 

Find out more about the College of Law at Prince Sultan University.

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