Improving access to justice through compulsory student work at university law clinics

29 January 2014

In this paper an analysis is offered of compulsory so-called "live client" clinical legal education as part of the LLB as a means of improving access to justice for the indigent. This study first explores the factors which motivate which the establishment of a year’s compulsory community service during the LLB studies, and making clinical legal education compulsory. The motivation includes inducing law students and graduates to aid in the achievement of access to justice. The research then focuses on what the value of community service is in higher education generally. In the South African civil justice system many ordinary people cannot afford to use the courts because of the expense involved, or because they are ignorant of their rights. This is particularly the case in civil as opposed to criminal matters, as legal aid is more frequently focused on criminal than on civil matters in this country. This paper will consider the role which senior law students may play in rendering pro bono work as part of clinical legal education in their LLB studies. In this regard particular focus will be made on the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the only university offering law studies in greater Durban. As for pro bono work by students during their LLB, consideration could be given to making clinical legal education a compulsory part of such students' curricula. Possible compulsory community service for law graduates (ie post-LLB) as envisaged in the proposed Legal Practice Bill falls beyond the ambit of this paper.