Clinical legal education and pro bono

Clinical legal education (CLE) is the name commonly used to refer to the delivery of a legal service by, or with the involvement of, law students acting under professional supervision where necessary.

Most universities in England and Wales now engage in CLE.

Nearly all legal services provided by university law schools are pro bono and are aimed at individuals and organisations who would not otherwise be able to access legal advice and assistance.

CLE is important because it:

  • plays a part in enabling access to justice – in 2018 LawWorks reported that two-fifths of pro bono clinics in the UK are run by universities
  • provides students with an opportunity to experience law in action, understand the barriers many people face in accessing justice, develop their legal practice skills, build their networks within the legal profession and improve their employability prospects 

The Clinical Legal Education Handbook

As with other forms of pro bono, CLE tends to be collaborative and offers many opportunities for qualified solicitors, law students and the third sector to work together in the provision of much-needed free legal services.

For more information about CLE, how it works and how to get involved, we recommend The Clinical Legal Education Handbook. The book is a free, open access online resource by the University of London Press.

Containing contributions from more than 25 clinicians, practising lawyers and third sector experts, the book is a good practice guide and practical resource offering direction on how to establish and run student law clinics.

It’s a helpful resource for:

  • university staff wishing to set up or expand a clinic
  • law students looking to get involved in pro bono
  • solicitors interested in volunteering
  • third sector organisations looking for ways to partner with universities on pro bono projects

The book is broken down into seven parts:

  • law clinics: Why, what and how? – outlines the many different models for university pro bono clinics
  • regulatory framework – 18 chapters, outlining the regulatory requirements on clinics operating in England & Wales
  • assessment in clinics: principles, practice and progress – a practical overview of the different methods of assessing clinics and reasons for the same
  • research on clinical legal education – a critical review of the existing body of literature on CLE
  • precedent documents and resources – a bank of materials that clinics are welcome to adapt and use for their own purposes
  • glossary of clinical legal education networks – details of how to connect with fellow clinicians from around the world
  • things I wish I’d known before I started doing clinical legal education – words of wisdom and personal reflections from experienced clinicians

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