A Systematic Review of Literature on Clinical Legal Education: A Tool for Researchers in Responding to an Explosion of Clinical Scholarship


  • Tribe Mkwebu University of Northumbria




Identifying where my research, on influential factors to consider in the establishment and sustainability of clinical legal education programmes, fitted within the existing clinical scholarship was by no means an easy task hence the decision to undertake a systematic review of literature. The current explosion of clinical scholarship seem to have been influenced by Jerome Frank’s call for reform in legal education when in 1933, he asked “Why not a Clinical-Lawyer School?” (Frank, 1933) A constant construction of clinical scholarship is critical in understanding many of the facets of clinical legal education so as to sustain clinical programmes and foster new ones. Yet a ‘boom’ in literature scares the life out of many a scholar and novice researchers when attempting to find articles that specifically answer research questions. This paper therefore offers guidance in conducting a systematic literature review on clinical legal education through the use of a Grounded Theory methodology. Through a five- stage process that involved the formulation of a research question and protocol; the use of systematic methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant journal articles, this paper outlines each formal methodological step in identifying and selecting journal articles for inclusion in answering the following research question: [What factors are influential in the establishment and sustainability of clinical legal education programmes in Zimbabwe?]. The numbers of selected articles were presented in a PRISMA flow diagram. A final selection of 91 journal articles was juxtaposed; integrated and tabulated to produce an overarching explanation which attempts to account for the range of findings (Mays et al., 2005a) of the review. Through the process of synthesis, I endeavoured to contribute significant added value to my review through an examination of the composite evidence base for similarities of the articles, whether related to the homogeneity or indeed their relatedness of findings. The type of epistemology I favour for my research has also been influenced (Carter and Little, 2007) partly by the methods and findings undertaken in this review. The paper concludes by suggesting that a systematic review method, rather than a narrative review, should be a researcher’s tool in responding to an explosion of clinical scholarship.  Keywords – Boolean logic; Boolean operators; database selection; record keeping; clinical legal education; systematic review of literature; narrative review; Zimbabwe

Author Biography

Tribe Mkwebu, University of Northumbria

Barrister at Law (Inner Temple, London); Experienced Legal Practitioner; Qualified Teacher and PhD Candidate in Law at the University of Northumbria, United Kingdom



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