Why Not an International Clinical Legal Exchange Program? It Is Worth the Shlep
Clinical Law Review, Forthcoming
26 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 21, 2014
Clinical programs are a critical component of legal education worldwide. This article proposes a model of clinical legal exchange program that shifts the paradigm from one that presumes the U.S. clinician in the role of the consultant, to one in which the presumption is that clinicians from different countries have equivalent potential to positively influence each other’s programs. This model is based upon an exchange program between Suffolk University Law School, and the University of Haifa, Israel (the Suffolk-Haifa Clinical Legal Exchange Program – “SHCLEP”). This experience suggests that international cooperation in clinical education should be seen through the lens of comparative law theory, as an endeavor in which participants in exchange programs seek to advance clinical pedagogy and practice on a global level. Sending clinical students abroad as a precursor to their clinical experience at home provides the student with an important, culturally disorienting experience that, ideally, will lead the student to think critically about his or her own legal system, and to be better prepared to understand the needs of clients at home. Empirical data shows that study abroad programs promote cultural sensitivity, self-reflection, and self-reliance, some of the very values that clinical educators hope to impart to their students. A survey of SHCLEP participants confirms these findings. Law schools should send their students to participate in the clinical programs of law schools in other countries as part of international clinical exchange programs that emphasize a comparative clinical law experience.
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