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Ethical Practice and Clinical Legal Education

Submitted by Nigel Duncan on Tue, 02-23-2010
Duncan, Nigel
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International Journal of Clinical Legal Education
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United Kingdom
This article is designed to explore a variety of ways in which clinical methods can achieve the goals of educators and the professions in the preparation of student lawyers. In particular I intend to show how clinical methods assist in the development of:
• a deeper understanding of the law, and the law in context;
• general transferable skills;
• legal professional skills;
• a sound values basis for ethical practice.(1)
In addition, I hope to show that there are ways of using clinical methods which may also assist us to meet other social concerns such as the extension of legal services and individual knowledge of rights, throughout the community.
This article is based on the UK system of legal education, whereby a degree, usually of three years,is followed by a one-year vocational course (the Legal Practice Course for solicitors and the Bar Vocational Course for barristers) then an apprenticeship of two years’ training contract for solicitors or one-year pupillage for barristers.(2) However, some of the examples I will draw on relate to differently structured legal education systems such as that in the USA and I believe that my remarks are of general application. In order to provide concrete examples to illustrate my arguments I have drawn extensively on the course of which I have most experience: the Bar Vocational Course at my own institution, the Inns of Court School of Law (ICSL).
Other providers may have differently structured courses, but all are validated by the Bar Council,and are expected to meet the same standards. The degree to which clinical methods are adopted varies, but (as defined below) is, to some extent, a feature of all the courses.
* Principal Lecturer, Inns of Court School of Law, City University; Editor, The Law Teacher; NationalTeaching Fellow; founder-member: Clinical Legal Education Organisation, Global Alliance for Justice
(1) These are among the central qualities sought in legal education by the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct:ACLEC 1996: First Report on Legal Education and Training (Stationery Office, London). pp. 24–5.
(2) For an explanation of the current system of professional legal education in England and Wales,see Duncan, N.: Gatekeepers Training Hurdlers: The Training and Accreditation of Lawyers in England and Wales, 20, Georgia State U. L. R., 4, p. 911. Change may be imminent. The Law Society is currently conducting a Training Framework Review. The current state of consultation suggests a relaxation of specific requirements for courses, provided individuals can demonstrate that they have achievedthe ‘Day 1 Outcomes’. This is highly controversial and it is premature to predict what will emerge from the consultation process. However, it is worth noting that the importance of addressing ethical issues is recognised and that clinical methods appear to be highly regarded.
Teaching Methods