“Irish Clinical Legal Education Ab Initio: Challenges and Opportunities”


  • Lawrence Donnelly National University of Ireland




This article details the incipient efforts of one Irish university law school, the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), in the field of clinical legal education. While clinical legal education, which began in the United States some fifty years ago, has made significant advances throughout the rest of the common law world, it remains at a very early stage in Ireland.1 In fact, Irish efforts in the field to date more closely resemble what is known in the United States as the “externship model” of legal education, rather than what are commonly identified as law clinics in other jurisdictions.2 And for a variety of reasons that will be touched upon later in this article, the law school clinic is unlikely to develop here to the same extent it has elsewhere. As such, this article explores what Irish clinical legal education currently looks like and what it might look like in the future.It begins with some background on and consideration of legal education in Ireland, then, using NUI Galway as a case study, details the emergence of skills teaching in the curriculum and the consequential increase in participation in moot court competitions and in student scholarly output. The article next examines the establishment, organisation and maintenance of a placement programme for final year law students. In so doing, it reflects on what has worked and what has not at NUI Galway from the perspectives of the clinical director, placement supervisors and students. The article concludes with some realistic, yet sanguine, observations as to what future clinical legal education has in Ireland.