The role of university law clinics in public interest litigation, with specific reference to South Africa

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    English: University law clinics in South Africa emerged from the desire of law students and academics to be involved in the struggle for social justice, while simultaneously providing clinical legal education for the students. This article focuses on some of the reported court cases in which university law clinics in South Africa have been involved. It is not concerned with public interest law units at universities that do not involve students in clinical legal education, or the so-called clinics operating in the justice centres of Legal Aid South Africa. Neither does it dwell on the nonlitigious activities or the non-reported cases brought by university law clinics. For purposes of comparison, reference is made to the United States context where clinical legal education has been in existence longer than anywhere else. The article also highlights the challenges that law clinics in South Africa face regarding their financial and human resources, the marginalisation of their staff members from mainstream academia, and their heavy caseloads which impact on their educational function. Despite this, national university law clinics have played, and continue to play, an important role in public interest litigation – particularly in the realm of civil litigation which Legal Aid South Africa does not have the resources to address. Through their clinical legal education methodology, South African law clinics have also contributed to the transformation of the South African society, in general, and the legal profession, in particular.