University Law Clinics and their value in undertaking client-centred law reform to provide a voice for clients' experiences
This article examines how a clinical program can enlarge on the benefits of case work experience of enabling students by adding a course component which engages the students in identifying systemic issues in their case work which can be used to inform work on law reform issues as part of assessment in the clinical programs. The clinical program discussed in this article, demonstrates that assessment can be broadened to enable students to critique the contexts within which client issues emerge. The added component to student case work requires students to develop and use further skills in research, analysis and the evaluation of issues emerging from case work and suggest considered solutions to improve the operation of the legal system. My experience of such an approach is that it deepens students understanding not just of the law and how it is applied to their case work but also the mechanics of the law, how laws are made and how they are influenced. Student lawyers also see the important role of lawyers as members of a profession in ensuring the legal system retains public confidence. A side effect of this extension of the clinical work beyond only client work, is that students become motivated and are more employable (as they leave the course not only with skills in interviewing, communicating, letter writing, applying the law and preparing court cases) with skills in policy development and submission writing.
(1) Lecturer in Law, La Trobe University and Clinical Supervisor, West Heidelberg Community Legal Service
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