A case study in advocating for expanded clinical legal education : the University of Stellenbosch module
CITATION: Van Der Merwe, S. 2017. A case study in advocating for expanded clinical legal education : the University of Stellenbosch module. Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif 28(3):679-701.
The original publication is available at https://journals.co.za/content/journal/10520/EJC-dc5567734
Practical Legal Training 471 (“PLT”) is the only Clinical Legal Education (“CLE”) module currently offered by the Faculty of Law at the University of Stellenbosch (“Faculty”). It has an important function in that it offers to final year law students the opportunity to acquire and develop skills in a clinical setting. Despite overwhelming international support for CLE as a teaching methodology, it has a limited role in the current LLB curriculum where it is offered as an elective to a relatively small number of final year law students. In this respect, Stellenbosch reflects the position of many other University law faculties. This article presents an argument favouring a dedicated and pro-active effort to increase CLE’s footprint within the Faculty by restructuring the current elective module into one that is mandatory for all law students. This is done by considering the pedagogical, institutional and access to justice arguments in support of effective CLE modules. This is then followed by an overview of the current PLT module, emphasising the role and expectations of the Law Clinic (“LC”), impacted community, students, faculty and profession. The article then identifies some of the challenges which deter universities, like Stellenbosch, from offering CLE as a compulsory module in their LLB curriculum. With due regard to the complexity of the issues at stake, some suggestions are offered that could serve as a starting point for law faculties in considering how to deal with the obstacles in the way of offering a mandatory CLE module. Ultimately, any efforts to expand CLE remain contingent on the relevant faculty’s support and its ability to realise the full potential of CLE by considering a mandatory module as a necessary intervention in its LLB programme offering.