Clinical legal education: conflicting aims, political activism and extraordinary times thinking

Wale, J (2021) Clinical legal education: conflicting aims, political activism and extraordinary times thinking. In: Legal Ethics / Ethics in Law Conference, 29 - 30 November 2021, Stellenbosch University Law Clinic, South Africa [online].

Abstract

Clinical legal education (CLE) arguably serves a range of important social functions beyond the offer of valuable student learning and experience. Indeed, contemporary law school arrangements and promotional material often go out of their way to emphasise the benefits for community users of these services. Student activity may help satisfy unmet legal need, often for vulnerable individuals and marginalised communities within the general population. As such, CLE may serve a valuable role in securing access to justice for specific sections of the population, even when these functions are relegated to a bi-product of student learning. This paper pursues two central lines of inquiry. First, it examines whether CLE and associated student activities can ever be politically and ethically neutral; addressing whether partisan activism is necessarily problematic from the perspective of key stakeholders? For example, do student advice clinics, justice initiatives and law reform activities help perpetuate, rather than minimise, broader issues of social injustice and inequality within communities? Are the narrative aims and contemporary justifications for CLE sufficiently coherent, and if not, what are the appropriate normative foundations for this kind of legal learning? Secondly, it addresses the possible impact of extraordinary times thinking, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated shift to online mechanisms of dispute resolution, which suggest that conventional ethical paradigms have been superseded by states of exception or similar acute circumstances that warrant direct action and the prioritisation of collective welfare interests. In particular, do extraordinary circumstances, such as these, warrant a shift in our conventional (ordinary) time thinking about CLE and the role that law students might play as agents of social change?

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Bath Business School
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2021 18:32
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2021 17:58
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