Time to rework the brand ‘Clinical Legal Education’


  • Mary Anne Noone La Trobe University




At the Tenth International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, the involvement of more than 200 participants from 22 different countries and jurisdictions highlighted the varying circumstances and challenges facing clinicians around the globe. The conference discussions were vibrant and often inspiring. The conference themes were: Clinic for All? Should clinic integrate into traditional legal teaching? Should all students have the opportunity to do clinic? Should clinics engage more with the profession? It was not the first time these themes have been addressed at clinical legal education conferences. They are perennial issues for the clinical legal education movement and their merits have been forcefully argued over several decades. For many of those attending the conference, the definitive answer to all four questions is “Yes”.

Clinical legal educators can readily recite a litany of reasons why clinical legal education is a preeminent form of legal education. The benefits for students, the communities they serve and the legal profession are clearly apparent to clinicians. These positive attributes have been recognised in a range of different documents reviewing legal education. However the real challenge is how to make clinic for all students a reality. How can we make this happen?

In reflecting on this question I wondered why if the merits of clinical legal education are so obvious, why is it that we do not have clinic for all? Why isn’t clinical legal education an integral part of legal education? Why don’t all students get the opportunity to undertake clinical legal education and why isn’t the legal profession advocating for clinical legal education to be a mandatory aspect of law degrees?

Obviously the answers to these questions are going to be jurisdiction and university specific. In this paper I address one possible response, the branding of clinical legal education. Although my comments are informed by what is happening in Australian university sector and my recent work with five Australian clinicians in our best practices project, I hope my remarks have some common resonance to differing clinical legal education environments.