Expanding and Sustaining Clinical Legal Education in Developing Countries: What We Can Learn from South Africa
Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 2, January 2007
Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-15
48 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009 Last revised: 13 Dec 2012
Date Written: 2008
Scholars have devoted considerable attention and resources to creating and expanding legal aid clinics, law school clinics, and university-based law clinics in order to make the law school experience more educational and relevant for law students in developing countries by introducing more skills training into the curriculum. Those who support the expansion of clinical legal education in South Africa and elsewhere have sought to achieve specific objectives related to improving legal education for students and providing assistance to economically disadvantaged groups.
Legal education is enhanced when it reflects the realities of the citizens within a country, such as South Africa where a majority of the people live in poverty. Clinics and clinical courses promote important values such as equal justice for even the most disadvantaged in society. Clinical legal education also provides an opportunity for students to actually practice lawyering skills such as interviewing, negotiating, and analyzing cases, and to confront ethical issues that arise in real cases. Another objective is to increase access to the legal profession for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in countries like South Africa that require candidate attorneys to serve a legal apprenticeship before attaining admission to the bar, regardless of race and cultural background. Finally, clinical legal education helps to expand the resources for legal representation available to low-income people, especially on issues vital to their survival such as public benefits, shelter, family matters, and civil rights.
This Article reviews the development of clinical legal education in South Africa and the valuable lessons such an analysis provides for those seeking to promote clinical legal education elsewhere. The author hopes that a review of the obstacles faced there and the creative ways clinicians have attempted to overcome them, some much more successful than others, will be especially useful.
Keywords: clinical legal education, South Africa, law school curriculum, developing countries, clinics, economic disadvantage, practice, skills, lawyers, teaching, access, legal profession, low-income
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