Policy Clinic as a method to engage students with law reform and social justice: Experiences from Northumbria Law School’s Student Law Office

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Northumbria Law School’s Student Law Office (SLO) has been providing pro-bono legal advice for over 20 years. Work in the SLO provides an opportunity for students to develop practical legal skills alongside their general legal education. Recently, the SLO has incorporated a Policy Clinic into its curriculum. In the Policy Clinic (PC), students conduct empirical legal research for external organisations, with the aim of contributing to law reform. The impetus behind the introduction of the PC was to enlarge the benefits of the CLE program for both the students and the wider community. More specifically, the PC is designed to develop the students’ professional skills in an alternative way, and from a different perspective to that of the standard SLO live client model. This innovative teaching method aims to encourage a social justice ethos in students by engaging them with relevant and impactful research which encourages them to develop valuable skills. Requests for help are received from a variety of organisations. Many requests are from groups which represent vulnerable people, for example, a police service working with victims of domestic abuse. The student work focuses on areas of the law in need of reform and the final submission produced is designed to contribute to a vital and current debate. The students, under supervision, submit research ethics applications; interview participants; analyse data and write a report to be submitted to the instructing organisation and any relevant official bodies. During this process the students are exposed to current legal issues and they develop an appreciation of how to influence positive changes in society.

The aim of this chapter is to outline how the PC operates within the SLO at Northumbria University. The intention is to discuss the benefits and challenges of students engaging in this type of work, whilst also providing a guide for others considering setting up a PC. It will outline the practical advantages and difficulties faced during the first year of running the PC.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClinical Legal Education
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Oct 2022

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