Legal Clinics in the Global North and South: Between Equality and Subordination - An Essay

41 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2014 Last revised: 16 Nov 2014

See all articles by Daniel Bonilla

Daniel Bonilla

Universidad de los Andes School of Law

Date Written: 2013


The essay presents and justifies the following three theses. First, I argue that the relationships between public interest law clinics in the Global North and South reproduce typically unequal relations between the center and the periphery of legal academia. The exchange between clinics of the Global North and South reiterates, reinforces, and projects a number of issues relating to the spaces where legal knowledge is created and used in appropriate ways. These unequal relationships are particularly evident in the following three theoretical and practical matters: who has the ability to produce legal knowledge, how to legitimatize the knowledge produced, and who can make effective use of that knowledge. Second, I argue that the generally unequal relationship between legal academia in the North and South is consolidated and reinforced in the clinical setting for two main reasons. First, the tension between educational and social-justice objectives presented in most clinical projects is often resolved in favor of the former. Second, the tensions between the aims of professional development of clinical professors and social justice, also common in many of the exchange programs between the clinics of the North and South, is often resolved in favor of the former. Third, I argue that it is quite desirable for the working relationship between the clinics in the South and North to continue, develop, and expand. However, for this type of clinical work to have the desired effects for social justice and educational matters and to avoid reproducing the dynamics of subordination between the academic center and periphery, it should be guided by the following three principles: mutual recognition of the parties involved in the project; using consensus to establish, interpret, and apply the rules governing the clinical exchange; and prioritizing the social justice objectives pursued over the educational and professional development purposes that are also part of the programs of cooperation advanced by the clinics.

Keywords: Legal Clinics, Legal Academics, Global North, Global South

Suggested Citation

Bonilla, Daniel, Legal Clinics in the Global North and South: Between Equality and Subordination - An Essay (2013). Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Daniel Bonilla (Contact Author)

Universidad de los Andes School of Law ( email )

Carrera Primera # 18A-12
Bogota, DC D.C. 110311

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