Access to justice and the role of law schools in developing countries: some lessons from South Africa: pre-1970 until 1990: Part I

  • D. J. McQuoid-Mason Advocate of the High Court of South Africa & University of Natal, South Africa


The term ‘access to justice’ is generally used to refer to the provision of access to state-sponsored health, housing, welfare, education and legal services, particularly for the poor. In the narrow sense it refers to access to legal services which include access to legal advice and legal representation. In law schools this access can be provided by students and staff working in ‘live client’ law clinics and by using law students in ‘Street law’ programmes to provide access to information about legal rights and responsibilities to the general public. Thus, in developing countries law schools can play an important role by not only providing legal aid services to the poor but also by educating lay people about the law, human rights and democracy.
South African law schools became directly involved in the delivery of legal advice and services during the early 1970s when the first ‘live client’ law clinics were set up by law faculties and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). During this period very few law schools sought to change the apartheid system by becoming directly involved in human rights issues. In the mid-1980s ‘Street law’ programmes began to be introduced at law schools to educate people about their legal rights and the need for change. By the 1990s an increasing number of law schools became actively involved in the promotion of human rights and democracy, and several legal academics were involved in the drafting of the new Constitution.


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