A conversation with Ukrainian lawyer Oksana Kuzyk about gender equality in the law field and Ukrainian cultural customs – from Josefine Antonia Schulte, ABOWI “Across Borders With Information” in Berlin / Germany.
ABOWIs virtual journey leads me to the Eastern European country Ukraine. With the second largest state territory in Europa but only 44 Million inhabitants an fascinating nation of tradition and change.
The ABOWI project aims to interview 197 lawyers from every country of the world. It stands for “Across Borders With Information”, summarising the metaphor of building bridges with information. Overcoming prejudices or just learning from experienced international lawyers about globalisation and international connectedness worldwide. Ukraine serves as a bridge between Europe and Asia due to its important geopolitical location. Ukraine’s independence ages only 30 years this year, a considerable transformation in such a short period. Especially the constitutional reform process has been in work association agreements with the European Union (EU) or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has been supporting Ukraine in their Transformation process.
Oksana Kuzyk is the head lawyer of the company Agroprod service, one of Ukraine’s largest agricultural providers, located in Ternopil, Ukraine. This shows the variety of careers possible with a law degree. As a law student myself an inducement for the future.
Josefine A. Schulte: Please introduce yourself shortly in terms of name, age, origin and how long you have been practicing the profession of law?
Oksana Kuzyk: I am Oksana Kuzyk, 41 years old, Ukrainian and I have been practising the profession of law, as a lawyer, for 19 years.
Josefine A. Schulte: What made you become a lawyer in the first place or has your country of living maybe something to do with it?
Oksana Kuzyk: My interest in the profession comes from my childhood. I read a lot, including legal literature. In addition, I was always enthusiastic about resolving issues amongst my peers. Even when I was a child, I tried to convince them that it is more effective to resolve issues with words rather than force. This became the reason why the profession of a lawyer stood out to me.
Josefine A. Schulte: What is your expertise?
Oksana Kuzyk: I specialise in managerial, administrative and civil legal relations. Nevertheless, in Ukraine, in order to practice law, it is mandatory for a lawyer to master all of the branches of legislation, hence I must constantly improve my knowledge in other branches.
Josefine A. Schulte: How is the social recognition of a career in law in Ukraine? (E.g. in Germany the societal recognition is quite high especially for people without any contact points with lawyers. There is certainly a stereotype of the superior and rich lawyer.)
Oksana Kuzyk: People in the profession of law usually enjoy authority and respect from society as legal knowledge is necessary for other careers, for example for a career in public administration, it also is vital for solving most issues as they require legal consultancy.
Josefine A. Schulte: What is the societal sense of justice in Ukraine?
Oksana Kuzyk: Historically, the societal sense of justice in Ukraine is tense. This is especially noticeable in the past years with the development of the Ukrainian civil society.
Josefine A.Schulte: What challenges as a lawyer are you facing on a day to day basis?
Oksana Kuzyk: If to shortly sum up the essence of any lawyer’s work it would be looking something like this: in the shortest possible space of time we must study the existing problem, study all of the relevant documentations and find the solution to the whole picture. This does not scare me as everyday work only makes you more enduring and opens new possibilities. Unfortunately, in Ukraine, many do not understand the amount of work a lawyer does from the beginning of an assignment to the completion of the case, many assume it is all peaceful and unburdening work, although in reality they encounter a broad selection of problems. Due to my expertise, I mostly come across problems with fulfilment of the business activities. Realities dictate rules to play by, and in order to remain in the market it is necessary to adjust. For any business, working with clients is a major part of its existence. Therefore, it is vital for the process of cooperation to be competently laid out by a lawyer as its success and the future relations depends on it.
Josefine A. Schulte: You are a lawyer in Ukraine but at the same time you live in a globalised world. But how is the cooperation with lawyers and clients outside of Ukraine?
Oksana Kuzyk: Yes. Usually this type of cooperation is connected to resolving legal issues of a foreign client in Ukraine. Personally, I have dealt with foreign clients as participants in foreign trade contracts amongst Ukrainian legal entities and foreign companies.
Josefine A. Schulte: How exposed are you to prejudices as a female lawyer in a quite conservative country?
Oksana Kuzyk: In Ukraine I have never experienced prejudice as a female lawyer. Women have long established themselves as capable to successfully pursue the most prestigious roles in jurisprudence. Overall, I am positive to say that in Ukraine amongst legal professions there is gender equality.
Josefine A. Schulte: How internationally well-positioned are lawyers in your country in terms of language?
Oksana Kuzyk: Working as a lawyer on an international level demands the ability to prepare documents in foreign languages such as French or English in the situations of international trials. More importantly, the knowledge of the foreign language must be on a professional level. This is the reason why most preparations of documents for this type of cooperation require a service of a translator as most Ukrainian lawyers do not have a sufficient level of language knowledge.
Josefine A. Schulte: What is the level of demand of international cases and clients in your experience?
Oksana Kuzyk: Demand from international clients is not high. However, in the past years we have been observing an upward trend in the amount of cases which include the participation of international clients.
Josefine A. Schulte: As your international client, what sort of legal advice is highly requested?
Oksana Kuzyk: International clients usually require a consultation concerning their participation in Ukrainian legal entities. Such as creation of legal entities, purchasing of corporate rights and other legal support concerning activities of non-residents in the territory of Ukraine.
Josefine A. Schulte: There is a prejudice that the freedom of press is still being controlled by the oligarchy.What is actually thereto the myth of the powerful Ukrainian oligarchs?
Oksana Kuzyk: In my opinion, a large amount of mass media platforms, including both printed and digital, provincial and countrywide, refute this assertion.
Josefine A. Schulte: Another common belief is towards corruption in the Ukrainian justice system? Is that in keeping with the time of the 21. Century? Or a fading prejudgment of the past?
Oksana Kuzyk: In the past few years, Ukrainian mass media from time to time has covered facts on open cases due to bribery on the part of law enforcement officers, including court employees. Nevertheless, a very small proportion of those cases result in prosecution. From my own experience I can say that the high amount of ambiguous decisions in courts, which is usually due to employment of different laws, can serve as an evidence of the existing corruption in the Ukrainian system of justice.
I thank my interview partner Oksana Kuzyk for the interesting and open conversation. Oksana Kuzyk’s daily challenges do remind me of the ones other international lawyers were facing. A pattern of struggling communication between the amount of work, time pressure, and the demands of clients. Inspirational of Oksana Kuzyk is her view of it, as a challenge opening new horizons and only improving her methods. Unexpected but great, due to my prejudices, I found that there is equality in the field of law between male and female lawyers. Similar to Germany. Oksana Kuzyk’s inspiration to become a lawyer is admirable and the approach of conflict solving using words has to grow and persist for a more peaceful world.
„For simplicity, the masculine form is used throughout the text; the […] feminine form is of course included.“
stud. iur. Josefine Antonia Schulte
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