Models of Clinic and Their Value to Students, Universities and the Community in the post-2012 Fees Era
The number of clinics in existence within higher education institutions has continued to proliferate in recent years. The 2011 LawWorks1 report examining the pro bono work undertaken within Universities in the United Kingdom found that at least 61 per cent of all Law schools now offer pro bono activities to their students,2 with 40 respondents offering clinic. This compares with 53 per cent of respondents offering pro bono activity and 11 respondents offering clinical activities in 2006. This evidence suggests that an increasing number of Law Schools recognise the benefits of clinic to students. However, the arrival of a new era in higher education funding arguably requires some reflection on (and perhaps greater articulation of) those benefits and the priorities of clinic activity overall, in order to ensure that the expectations of the key clinic stakeholders (the hosting institution, student volunteers and participating members of the public) are met. Concerns that the significant reduction in state funding for higher education will impact adversely on institutional resources is well-documented and at an institutional level there is likely to be increased scrutiny of the efficiency of devoting scarce resources to clinic activity in a climate of lower (or potentially lower) income streams and leaner budgets. Similarly, some students are likelyto exhibit a heightened sense of wanting value for money in their expectations of clinical education and may well demand greater input in the design of clinic activity. Against this, there has been a general and significant reduction in funding for the provision of free legal advice and an associated increased demand amongst the general public for quality free legal advice and access to justice. Therefore, for new and established clinicians alike, the post-2012 era provides the opportunity for, if not necessitates, reflection on the expectations and ambitions of the three key clinic stakeholders (the host institution, the student volunteers and the general public) and, particularly, the question of whether they are sufficiently aligned with each other and the priorities of the clinic activity in place. Arguably, the possibility of conflicting priorities for clinic originating from these key stakeholders and methods of resolving them has featured little in the academic commentary. This paper seeks to contribute to such a debate by offering some insights into resolving these tensions. Taking the interests of each stakeholder in turn, this paper discusses methods of maximising the efficiency of administering the clinic and managing student expectations.
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