Legal clinic or law clinic is nonprofit law practice serving the public interest. Legal clinics originated as a method of practical teaching of law school students, but today they encompass also free legal aid with no academic links. In the academic context, this law school clinic proved hands-on experience to law school students and services to various (typically indigent) clients. Academic Clinic is usually directed by clinical professors. Many legal clinics offer pro bono work in one or more particular areas, providing free legal services to clients. The remainder of this article will discuss clinical legal education.
Students typically provide assistance with research, drafting legal arguments, and meeting with clients. In many cases, one of the clinic’s professors will show up for oral arguments before the court. However, many jurisdictions have “students practice” rules that allow law-clinic students to appear and argue in court.
Types of activity — The clinics may include variety of activity:
- Legal Aid Clinic is traditionally the most common type of Clinical education. Students under supervision of lectures provide pro bono legal aid to general public (usually to those, who can’t otherwise afford it.)
Lewis further distinguishes:
Willen C. V/s pre-moot, a simulation of resolution of international business dispute by arbitration, at the Palack’y law school’s courtroom
- Simulations – students can learn from a variety of simulations of what happens in legal practice. For example, moot courts are commonplace. They have traditionally formed part of law school activity and introduce students to the intricacies of advocacy, at least before appellate courts.
More ambitiously, some use mock trials, sometimes with professional actors, to convey the difficulties of, for example, introducing evidence and establishing facts in what may be the rapidly changing environment of a first instance tribunal. Other simulations can range from
- Negotiation Exercises – whereby opposing groups of students learning the art of negotiation, rather than trial court litigation, by being given realistic case files and asked to resolve them in as economic and fair manner as possible.
- Client interviewing exercises
- Transaction exercises – between groups of students such as buying and selling property or with individual students in e.g. drafting a will
- Legal drafting and writing program
Although of exceptional value in teaching law, these simulations can lack the complexity of real client work, and the role play may not create the same demands that exist upon the legal practitioner. Placements – students can be sent out to work with practicing lawyers for short periods to encounter real problems, clients, and courts. They are then expected to bring back their experience to the law school and reflect upon in, using it to inform the remainder of their time spent in academic establishment. They are particularly attractive to some law schools, because that they can be arranged at little cost. On the other hand, the student’s experience can vary greatly, and it is especially difficult for teachers to monitor what has happened in order to make use of it, and provide effective feedback. It is difficult the student’s progress.