Learning from experience: the art and science of clinical law
Clinical law is a teaching discipline in terms of which students learn the skills, ethics and values necessary for the practice of law. Its mission is accomplished through the practical involvement of students in legal work, whether it is through simulated exercises or representing actual clients in their legal problems. Throughout this process, they are guided by teachers or supervisors who are practising lawyers within the law school. What is unique to this discipline is the employment of teaching methodologies which are experientially-based and geared towards problem solving, rather than ‘academic’ in nature. This contribution looks at some recent developments with regard to the regulation of the legal profession and suggests that clinical law is set to assume an even greater significance with the prospect that the period of vocational training is likely to be reduced, in terms of the draft Legal Practice Bill. Furthermore, the contribution argues that such an approach is a more effective form of teaching and learning, and that its methodologies should be integrated into other teaching disciplines. It also explores a model for implementing the notions expressed in this piece. Finally, based on the experiences of South African law clinics, it argues that clinical law can be delivered effectively even in resource-strapped situations.