Do We Want a Human First, and a Lawyer Second? Developing Law Student Empathy Through Clinical Legal Education


  • Amy Lawton University of Edinburgh
  • Kathryn Saban Lancaster University
  • Sadie Whittam Lancaster University



In the UK, the legal profession is increasingly acknowledging the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy in legal practice. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that soft skills such as empathy can be taught, and that these skills should be incorporated in legal education. This study uses the Basic Empathy Scale to examine whether law student participation in law clinic and tax clinic modules had any effect on students’ self-reported empathy levels. It is submitted that, in general, the students who worked in clinic experienced a statistically significant positive shift in their empathy levels. However, a few students who worked in clinic also experienced a decrease in their empathy levels, and the possible reasons for this are explored. In addition, this paper considers the impact of gender on students’ self-reported empathy levels.






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