Clinical Legal Education
Faculty of Law NUI Galway – Service Learning Module - An Update
Larry Donnelly, Faculty of Law
Clinical Legal Education is an innovative approach to legal training, which seeks to complement the theoretical training students receive in the classroom with practical, hands-on experience in “real world” placements for which they receive academic credit. The part-time, ten week placements are scheduled to commence in January 2007.
Through the strong network of contacts that staff members have with practitioners and in the NGO sector, students in the final year of the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL). degree will be placed in, inter alia, the Equality Authority, the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, Rape Crisis Network Ireland and with practitioners throughout the country.
Dean of the Faculty of Law, Donncha O’Connell, said: “We are delighted to be piloting a programme of Clinical Legal Education. Practical experience is instrumental to a student’s personal and professional formation. Moreover...it is hoped that these students will acquire a deeper understanding of the acute difficulties encountered by both groups and individuals in Irish society and, in their professional lives, promote law reform in the name of those at the margins.”
Students who are being placed next semester are likewise enthused by this unique opportunity. Clare McQuillan, who will be working with Eilis Barry, Legal Advisor to the Equality Authority, said: “I am really looking forward to starting my placement. I have been studying the principles, theories and rules of law now for almost three years, yet I don’t know how law can be used to affect the lives of people positively in their everyday lives. I hope that my placement will give me an insight into how law can be used to help achieve equality in Ireland.”
Clinical Legal Education in the Faculty of Law - Semester 1
“Because this field is so competitive, the more practical experience that can be put on a student’s CV when in competition with others from say, DCU or UCD, the better,” Mr. Donnelly said.
Students will receive academic credit for these placements, as well as receiving valuable experience in “real world” placements. With the ability to enhance their CV and their job knowledge, this module is ideal for beginning in today’s job market, according to Professor Donnelly. Although not required for graduation, the skills learned during the program will be essential for practical knowledge used in the field of Law. Additionally, groups with poorer backgrounds or racial inequality will benefit from the Service Learning module’s work.
“The primary goal is to give students practical experience and if possible, aid in marginalised groups in Irish society,” Mr. Donnelly said. As Ireland’s first permanent Clinical Lecturer in Law, Mr. Donnelly is eager to put this idea into effect. Based on a more advanced program, the placement will be a ten week course, incorporating an orientation, real work experience, reflective papers, and a final seminar.
With Service Learning practices in Clinical Legal education already implemented in Continental Europe, as well as the United States, Professor Donnelly thought it was important to begin implementing them here. “We are in the planning and implementation phase right now,” Mr. Donnelly said. “But hope to learn from and potential ‘kinks’ from missteps elsewhere. This module will be for their gain in getting jobs and for professional growth.”