EEEI and training activities

Interview with Benoit de Clerck

How long has the EEEI been involved in training?

In June 2014, the EEEI was invited to Brussels by DG-Justice to attend the workshop “Building upon good practices in European Judicial Training”. This workshop brought together more than 200 participants representing all the professions in the judicial world.

Our participation in this workshop led to a number of different awareness raising activities, which I will briefly describe:

  • The training sessions offer privileged frameworks for exchange between professionals, providing them with a context favourable to deepening their mutual knowledge.
  • The Experts, who are occasional but essential collaborators of the judiciary, whose status takes quite different forms depending on the member countries, remain a poorly identified and unrecognized actor in the other professions in the judicial world; indeed, our institution was their sole representant at this workshop.
  • Finally, from the perspective of a future mutual recognition of judicial decisions at European level, which will be conditioned by a harmonization of expert procedures, it was clear to us that the training of Experts, both initial and continuous, essential pillar of their competence, was a fundamental issue.

Since these observations, made in 2014, have you achieved operational results?

Our first actions, quite naturally, have been initiated at the local level by getting closer to member institutions, particularly in France.

We have contacted our institutional members such as the National Council of Bars (CNB) and other contacts such as the National School for the Judiciary (ENM), or the Lawyers school of the Paris Bar (EFB). These various contacts have given rise to initiatives of different kinds.

Among the most practical results, I would first like to mention the inclusion of expert testimony in the initial training of lawyers.

Secondly, one of our eminent experts has gathered a mixed and multidisciplinary editorial committee, consisting of more than 43 lawyers and experts, with the assistance of magistrates, which has undertaken the drafting of a practical guide to legal expertise for lawyers. This 500-page Guide is the result of a joint production by the European Expertise and Expert Institute, the EFB and LGDJ Editions. It will be published in March 2021.

Lastly, the CNB and the EEEI have worked together on the creation of mixed lawyer/expert teams for the design of e-learning training modules.

Due to the current sanitary context, e-learning is experiencing significant growth. Can you tell us what your clients’ expectations were and how you met them?

The texts entrust the National Bar Council (CNB) with multiple missions in terms of initial training, continuous education and specialization of lawyers. Moreover, the CNB has been a member of our Institute practically since its foundation.

At the end of 2017, Christiane Feral-Schuhl and Manuel Ducasse were elected respectively as President of the National Council of Bars and President of the Standing Committee on Training. Their project in the field of continuing education was to provide an original and innovative response to the expectations of its network of fifteen regional schools, by providing them with a rich catalogue of distance learning courses, a method reputed to be less time-consuming in the lawyer’s calendar.

The ambition of the project was to enable the schools to better capture their natural audience, the young bar, which is often also more open to digital and mobile platforms. We are therefore well before the current context, which will considerably amplify this fundamental trend.

The CNB then entrusted EEEI, with the task of addressing, in these training courses, topics with a significant technical connotation currently generating high demand for advice from businesses, but to which non-specialist lawyers have not always been made aware of during their training. The topics selected were the General Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR), firstly, cybersecurity/cybercrime issues, secondly.

The development model EEEI proposed to the CNB consisted of seven stages:

  1. setting up a group capable of delivering the expected content, made up of mixed speakers by identifying experts, and validating with the CNB the speakers-lawyers;
  2. ensure the leadership of this working group in the development of a training plan, with a dynamic breakdown adapted to its expected duration;
  3. to draw up the financing file in compliance with the requirements of the financing body (FIF-PL) ;
  4. ensure contractual support and compensation of the contributors;
  5. coordinate the design phase of the participants in consultation with the technical studio in charge of the production phase;
  6. ensure the quality control of the content before it is put into production on the broadcasting platform;
  7. ensure strict compliance with the overall schedule.

Following this model, EEEI delivered an initial module on the GDPR (see here module’s content) at the end of 2018, which was followed by two modules, one on cybersecurity at the end of 2019 and the other on cybercrime (see here module’s content) at the beginning of 2020. These modules, once deployed on the platform implemented by the CNB, were then marketed by the schools to their public. More than a three thousand lawyers have already followed one or more of these modules. At the end of 2020, the CNB renewed its confidence by entrusting us with the design of a more general module on judicial expertise, to be developed according to the same model.

This module will be composed of three sub-courses each addressing the specificities of expertise in civil matters, illustrated in the major specialities of construction, medical, and accounting. The specificities of expertise in criminal and administrative matters will not be forgotten, nor those of expertise in different methods of alternative dispute resolution. All topics will be approached from a practical perspective for the learning lawyer. The delivery of this module is expected in April 2021.

At the international level, did you obtain tangible results yet?

Our action at the international level has been to actively communicate to our members on the positive effects of the above national initiatives. Discussions at the initiative of members in various EU countries (Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Romania…) allow us to hope that the core model may soon be transposed.

These communication actions have already had some impact. Indeed, in the context of calls for projects to redefine judicial training from certain countries that we cannot yet mention, we have been asked to set up partnerships to cover the scope of experts and magistrates in charge of expertise monitoring.

These RFPs, which are still ongoing, have however been hampered by the current context.

What about an European project on good practices in the training of experts?

As said when beginning this interview, the quality of the training of experts, both initial and continuous, in their speciality as well as in respect of the fundamental principles of fair trial, is the main guarantee of their competence. This competence is the major prerequisite for their recording on the registers.

If an European register of experts is eventually to be set up, common standards will be needed to deal with the question of a qualitative evaluation of these training courses.

Our most recent project co-financed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, “Find-An-Expert”, which ended at the end of 2019, has eased the obtaining of a draft inventory.

In conclusion

However, the draft also highlighted the existence of number of national disparities, if only with regard to the nomenclature of specialities, the criteria governing the inclusion of Experts on the registers, where those exist, and the mechanisms provided for the periodic assessment of these criteria.

Faithful to our values, we have launched an European working group to transversally ponder on these subjects, in order to be able to formulate strong proposals within institutions where the EEEI sits as a permanent observer (CEPEJ, Council of Europe) or in the case of future calls for tenders of EC/DG-Justice.

I would like to end my word by thanking those who did not hesitate to entrust the EEEI with confidence, and  particularly, Mrs Féral-Schuhl, as well as the whole team of the EEEI for all their actions, initiatives and proposals, always in a spirit of exchanges and collaborative work.

Benoit de Clerck                   

EEEI co-president and  coordinator of the training projects