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Mapping best practice in clinical legal education

UKCLE PDF project

Project leaders: Richard Grimes, College of Law (e-mail: and Hugh Brayne (e-mail:
Project summary: guide to clinical legal education programmes in the UK (pilot study)
Completion date: October 2004
UKCLE funding: £5,000


The purpose of this project was to identify and examine contrasting models of clinical legal education in UK law schools and to chart, from the information provided, good professional and education practice. Based on the information gathered and methodology used a second phase of the research is planned (subject to funding), to compile a comprehensive directory of clinical practice in UK law schools.

Download a copy of the final report at the bottom of the page (RTF file, 145 pages, 416 KB).

This pilot study was conducted between March 2003 and August 2004. The research relied initially on the working knowledge of the two researchers, both of whom have extensive experience in establishing and running clinics in law schools. The five universities and colleges chosen as subjects of the research were selected in part because of the particular clinical models they ran and in part to give geographical spread, to cover the ‘new’ and ‘old’ providers and include institutions providing both undergraduate and overtly vocational programmes.

The five are:

  • the College of Law
  • University of Kent
  • Northumbria University
  • University of Sunderland
  • Queen’s University Belfast

At the time of the research the researchers themselves worked in the College of Law and the University of Sunderland. They chose to use these institutions for several reasons; testing the methodology, provision of information which should be made available more widely, and limitation of funding. The obvious risk of personal bias is considered where relevant in the report, but this does not affect, we hope, the usefulness of the research overall.

The research was conducted through interviews with key stakeholders including academic staff, management, students and external organisations (in particular hosts for student placements), and through a review of course and related materials.

The findings revealed rich and diverse activity, which was highly valued by all participants. In addition to anecdotal evidence of value the research also produced interesting commentary in terms of the price the institutions put on their clinical work, particularly the extent to which programmes were, in the main, funded by the institutions themselves.

Materials generated by the research are appended to the report, including a ‘best practice’ guide from the mid 1990s, which has been annotated to demonstrate the movement in model design and implementation and to highlight remaining and emergent pressures implicit in such work.

Four basic models of clinical activity were identified:

  • in-house advice and representation services
  • outreach services run by the institution but based in an external setting
  • placements in organisations external to the institutions
  • legal literacy programmes focusing on awareness of rights and responsibilities

In each instance benefits and challenges are examined, including the logistical and resourcing concerns surrounding the setting-up and running of particular clinics.

Apart from providing a wealth of detail from tried and tested models to those involved in or aspiring to have clinical programmes, the research report includes a set of frequently asked questions with answers drawn from the research findings. This information should prevent the reinvention of wheels and give guidance on how the research findings might be adapted and used in other contexts.


Last Modified: 4 June 2010