Clinical Legal Education
At the University of Manchester we give our students the best possible start to their legal careers, including a range of opportunities to take part in clinical legal education.
From the Peterloo Massacre, the establishment of the Trades Union Council and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Manchester has been at the heart of progressive campaigning. Over the years, The University of Manchester has been an active contributor to many of these campaigns and, in 1999, added to the city’s rich social justice history with the launch of the Legal Advice Centre. The largest and one of the first in the country, its success in enabling supervised students to provide pro bono advice to the public led to many more being established at universities across the UK.
Our goal is to evolve legal education to embody a reciprocal, experiential model of learning. In 2016 the Law School commissioned an external research project examining the future of clinical legal education and the curriculum. In 2017, the team made the decision to embed clinical legal education into the curriculum and to unite the many different pro bono legal services into a new ‘Justice Hub’.
Justice Hub opportunities are offered to taught students and include the Legal Advice Centre, Manchester Free Legal Help, the Dementia Law Centre and the Manchester Innocence Project amongst others. Activities are student-centred with students researching and providing legal advice working with our legal partners.
The Justice Hub works collaboratively with volunteer lawyers from different law firms, barristers’ chambers, and law centres, as well as a number of prestigious charities. Drawing on the diverse skills of the team, and placing students at the centre of our projects, aligns our values with the motto of the University of Manchester: Knowledge, Wisdom and Humanity.
The Hub synchronises, coordinates and expands the extensive clinical legal education work being undertaken in the School. The Hub enables students to learn important skills and knowledge, whilst supporting the most disadvantaged in society and promoting equality. Whilst Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, commented:
“It is impressive to see the innovative projects Manchester Legal Advice Centre have developed to increase the provision of free legal advice in their community. The standard of the Dementia Law Clinic demonstrates a true commitment to increasing access to justice to those in need.”
Student advisors provide free legal advice to members of the public under the supervision of academics and volunteer lawyers. As well as working on their legal case, students are encouraged to reflect upon the case, their development, the law in a socio-economic context and the impact of the case at micro-, meso- and macro- levels (participant, community, society). Within this relational model, students are exposed contextually to the often inconsistencies of the Rule of Law and the inaccessibility of the representational model to disadvantaged groups. As commented by one student:
“It made me look at law from a critical perspective, seeing its faults in its application for those most vulnerable as opposed to an arbitrary study of statute and case law.”
Student advisors in the Legal Advice Centre adopt a holistic and participatory approach to educating and empowering clients to be able to take control of their legal problem. Through this process of discourse, students learn professional responsibility and an understanding of their own ethical values.
Creating lifelong learners with an ongoing and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge and social justice is the goal of our student-centred learning method.