Skills Transfers in Academia: a Renewed Strategy.
Enhancing Legal Clinics in the European Union.
Erasmus+ Stars brings together 5 universities, from 4 EU countries, in order to enhance and support the legal clinics development


Teaching method

The way we teach (street law, client clinic, etc)

Clinical legal education driven through legal clinics is a legal teaching method based on experiential learning, which fosters the growth of knowledge, personal skills and values as well as promoting social justice at the same time. As a broad term, it encompasses varieties of formal, non-formal and informal educational programs and projects, which use practical-oriented, student-centred, problem and community-based, interactive learning methods, including, but not limited to, the practical work of students on real cases and social issues supervised by academics and professionals. These educational activities aim to develop professional attitudes and foster the growth of the practical skills of students with regard to the modern understanding of the role of the socially oriented professional in promoting the rule of law, providing access to justice and peaceful conflict resolutions, and solving social and community problems.
Legal clinics are a demand-driven and bottom-up approach to research. Their work can be described as community-based research (CBR). Their main function is to increase both public awareness and to provide access to legal science to laymen and non-profit organization. In practice, this means civil society organizations will have access to the legal research operated within the legal clinics at no cost.
Legal clinics also expose students to new business management skills in the field of legal services, contributing to a change of behaviour in the legal professions through exchange of ideas with successful legal entrepreneurs and professional trainers from the universities.
Legal clinics have existed for half a century in the USA. While legal clinics have been a fixture of legal education in the United States and other common law jurisdictions since the 1960s and 1970s, the concept in Europe has remained under-developed and under-utilized. Additionally, research regarding the use and potential of clinics in legal education has been limited. Even today it is not clear how many European Universities use the model. More recently they have been introduced in European Law Faculties and in law curricula and their role has gradually increased (According to the Report of C. Bartoli, (“Legal clinics in Europe: for a Commitment of Higher Education in Social Justice”, in Diritto & questioni pubbliche, special issue, May 2016. The report is available at: http://www.dirittoequestionipubbliche.org/page/2016_nSE_Legal-clinics-in-Europe/index.htm) 51 clinics are operating in the Europe Union in very different fields. But compared to the number of Law faculties existing in Europe (approximatively 451 according to a counting done online as there are no official statistics available), the number of legal clinics is extremely low which is highly regrettable as legal clinics have longed proved their efficiency in the US, where almost all law schools have developed clinical legal education with regard to the impact clinics activities have on community problems (for an overview of the US legal clinics landscape see the report of the Carnegie Foundation”Educating Lawyers, Preparation for the Profession of Law” 2007).

This late transplantation is due inter alia to the important differences existing between the functioning of law schools in the US and in Europe and between the American legal tradition – related to the common law system – and the legal traditions of the EU member States on continental Europe which are all related to the civil law tradition (For an anlaysis of these reasons and the necessity to adapt the American model, see E. Poillot, “Comparing Legal Clinics: is there a way to a European Clinical Culture? The Luxembourg Experience”, 4 European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance, 2017, pp. 111 – 139).
Legal clinics are still at an embryonic stage of development in Europe. Lawyers are naturally brought to understand and work in their communities (ubi societas, ibi ius) but still lack the appropriate methodologies to reach out and provide this kind of services. The project aims at providing guidelines and best practices that can be easily replicated in the hundreds of existing law faculties within the EU. Inasmuch as European law schools attract a great number of scholars and students from non-EU, European countries (e.g. Russia) or other continents (Latin and North America, Africa, Asia) and have strong bilateral agreements with other Law faculties, there is a concrete possibility of ‘exporting’ the model to other systems.
In legal clinics, students tackle legal issues involving real people. Legal clinics provide hands-on-legal experience to law students and services to various clients. They provide pro bono services in a particular area, providing free legal services to clients. Legal clinics develop apprenticeship within the academic curriculum by providing students with theoretical knowledge, practical skills and ethics. In fact, in the frame of legal clinics, law students learn the rules of ethics, study related cases and ethical opinions, work through hypothetical cases highlighting ethical dilemmas, and explore the obligations of lawyer to clients, third parties, and tribunals. Legal clinics represent an integrated approach to legal education as they allow developing networks of ideas, individuals, and institutions to advance teaching and learning, perfectly fulfilling the third mission of Universities in the field of law.

The STARS project helps to renew teaching strategies in law schools by providing models of “learning by doing” methods that can be implemented in more classical classrooms settings and demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches of teaching.

Third mission

The general objective of this project is to enhance and develop the science shop approach in the field of legal science through clinical legal education and consequently to enhance the "third mission" objective of universities (also called outreach and engagement), and consisting in, as indicated in many documents of European institutions (See e.g. the EP resolution of 13 March 2012 on the contribution of the European institutions to the consolidation and progress of the Bologna Process), in widening their traditional "missions" (teaching and research) by providing positive externalities to society at large by offering, for free, knowledge and educational services.
LCs provide “community service” which is an extension of university expertise to the world outside the university, the community, in the service of improving the quality of life of the community and which is effected through a university model in which community service is integral to all aspects of the university: mission, structure and organization, hiring and promotion, curriculum and teaching, research and publications (the so called third mission of universities).
The project will highlight the point that LCs are part of the mandatory “Third Mission” of universities and fall within the so-called Dublin Descriptors (in particular the ability of students of “reflecting on social and ethical responsibilities linked to the application of their knowledge and judgements”).

Empirical reasearch

This project focuses on consumer law clinics. Students typically provide assistance with research, drafting legal arguments, and meeting with clients. The functioning of all the legal clinics involved in this project is based on a close cooperation with civil society actors (consumers associations, regulation entities, bars).

This close cooperation allows legal clinics to benefit from the knowledge of stakeholders (e. g. members of consumer associations helps students understanding how to provide simplified legal information to consumers, legal practitioners help them to build the overall picture of the case they are dealing with not only relying on one discipline of law and taking into account probationary problems, legal strategies, consumers interests. In return LCs assist consumers associations in better understanding the complexity of consumer law and provide them with high expertise information on legal issues. Consumer law clinics therefore constitute a very good example of exchange of best practices between the academic world and civil society.

The legal clinics involved in this project operate in the frame of an academic context setting a benchmark of quality for the project, which together with the practical relevance of the project and its European dimension shall promote access to the job market in the member states where the clinics are located and in Europe.
The STARS project will be a foundation for a successful legal or policy-related career for students trained in the participating clinics who will have acquired skills rarely transferred in law schools.
Regarding the improvement of students’ employability, the promotion and development of clinical legal education is crucial, as this teaching approach is known to be an extremely effective means of teaching the practical aspects of legal notions within a very students’ friendly approach since small groups work under the continuous supervision of both academics and practitioners. Therefore, the STARS project will be a strong complement to the internship programmes already developed but that do not provide such an efficient mentoring of students. Clinics offer a more direct supervision of students than internship programmes. practitioners interact with students in law schools working hand in hand with lecturers and pedagogists. Students receive personalised feedback from supervising lawyers about each piece of interviewing, research and advice that they attempt.
The STARS project will promote the growth of clinics within Europe and expand knowledge of legal issues for three main stakeholders: civil society, students and academia. It will improve the quality of legal teaching in clinics and increase their use by consumers.

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