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Reflection in legal clinic

Case study by Richard Grimes (College of Law) outlining how legal clinics may be used to provide an opportunity for reflection.

Aims

To offer students an opportunity to put the theory of law into practice by placing them in a real life setting, for example a law centre, solicitors office or community setting such as a school or prison. Students are engaged in a real situation where they have to give advice to clients and use this experience as the basis for reflection. Over 900 students at the College of Law have taken part in clinic work.

Requirements and evidence

Students on the Legal Practice Course and Bar Vocational Course programmes at the London, Birmingham and Chester branches of the College of Law are able to participate in a law clinic. They are provided with a handbook on legal advice centres that documents the learning process. It is explained in the introduction of the handbook that there are three principal ways in which students should learn from the clinical experience:

  1. working on a real client case
  2. discussion at your follow-up meetings
  3. evaluating your experience

In a section called ‘learning by doing’ it is explained how this learning will be promoted.

After participating in the clinic students are required to do two things:

  1. Complete an evaluation form, asking them to think about what they achieved in the centre, what they could have done better and what they might have done differently. The form also helps supervisors if they are asked to provide a reference. Students then attend an evaluation meeting with their supervisor to discuss their experience and to find out how their supervisor evaluated their performance.
  2. Attend a group evaluation meeting with other participants to discuss in general terms their involvement in the centre’s work. Learning from the experience of others is as important as reflecting on their own work. This meeting takes place at the end of the term in which the student participates in the centre.

The reflective component is explained at the induction session and revisited at each meeting between the supervisor and the student’s advisors.

Assessment

Clinical programmes last around 5-6 weeks. Students are awarded a certificate of satisfactory completion of their case. The reflective element is not formally assessed, but there are plans to do so in the academic year 2002-03.

Recommendations and observations

The reflective component is spread across several meetings in the build-up to and analysis of the relevant programme. All of this is documented, including the use of exit questionnaires. This helps students to develop their ideas through discussion, and also prompts them to evidence reflection in the questionnaire.

 

Last Modified: 4 June 2010