Clinical Legal Education in the 21st Century: Still Educating for Service?


  • Judith Dickson La Trobe University



As a lawyer and clinical legal educator, I have direct experience of the ways in which clinical legal education programmes in Australia2 provide legal services to poor and disadvantaged people. In this context I recently began to wonder about the image of lawyers and of the legal profession, that other clinical educators and I portray in our work and about the values underlying clinical legal education.3 I began to think that despite a longstanding commitment to access to justice,4 clinical legal education in Australia might actually be acquiescing in a notion of professionalism that is counter to that commitment. In this article I explore the connection between the continuing commitment of clinical legal education to the provision of legal services to those unable to otherwise afford them and the notions of professionalism traditionally adopted by the organised legal profession. In doing so I focus on the Australian legal environment as the one with which I am most familiar. However, I believe the issues I raise are relevant for other legal educators concerned about the state of the legal profession in their jurisdictions and about the values which clinical legal education imparts to law students.