Just Published: The Clinical Legal Education Handbook

Photo by Jez Timms

Lee Hansen, Lecturer in Law, University of Essex and Professor Donald Nicolson, Director of the Law Clinic, University of Essex

The Clinical Legal Education Handbook (edited by Linden Thomas and Nick Johnson; published by University of London Press on behalf of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies) has launched providing law schools with a go-to-guide for establishing or maintaining their clinical programmes. Two academic members of the University of Essex Law School have contributed to this publication.

Lee Hansen, Deputy Law Clinic Director and Member of the Human Rights Centre, has contributed three chapters.

The first of Lee’s chapters provides guidance for clinics on client care to help such organisations provide to their clients a proper level of service. The chapter sets out key aspects of client care including the use of intake guidelines; client identification; time limit management; conflict screening; and the disclosure of key information to clients about the service and how their matters will be handled.

Client care has always been important but is of particular significance in the context of the current pandemic. Clinics are making changes to their regular service models to enable them to continue to assist the community throughout this unprecedented time. This may inevitably involve some new ways of working (such as the use of video conference technology) but it remains as important as ever to maintain appropriate systems and processes to ensure that clients who are placing their trust in these services, receive the best quality experience.

The second of Lee’s chapters provides guidance on effective signposting and referral. The chapter sets out key principles of effective signposting and referral, provides information about referral systems and set outs the regulatory position under SRA standards and regulations.

University law clinics often close outside of term time as students return home. Such closures also provide academic staff with much needed time to catch up on their scholarship or research which is often impossible to do during term time. In such circumstances where there are gaps in the continuity of a service it is critically important that persons enquiring for help are directed to an appropriate service that is able to assist. Again, in the current pandemic as sources of assistance are narrowed this guidance is of particular significance.

The third of Lee’s chapters provides guidance on the provision of debt advice by university law clinics. This chapter reviews changes to the regulatory landscape that largely prevent university law clinic from providing debt advice and suggests potential workarounds to support some provision in this important area. There will clearly be a significant level of legal need for debt advice in the context of the current pandemic and in its economic aftermath. This chapter therefore suggests some practical options to university law clinics to assist in meeting such need.

In addition to Lee’s chapters, Prof Donald Nicolson was asked to provide “words of wisdom” from those with many years of experience with law clinics and clinical legal education. Drawing on 25 years of experience in running law clinics (and four years as a student in a student-run clinic), Donald offered four items of advice to other clinicians:

  • the key to a clinic’s success is its people, so take your time selecting students and work colleagues;
  • never underestimate student – they will always surprise you with their enthusiasm, passion and new ideas;  
  • take risks – don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good; and finally,
  • look after yourself – don’t allow your passion for the clinic take over your life to the detriment of friends and family.
Published in May 2020

The Clinical Legal Education Handbook is freely available online in PDF here.

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