88 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE Combining these essential elements of learning should be the foundational goal of law schools. Teaching students critical legal reasoning and analysis, while providing them opportunities to apply legal thinking in learning situations that reflect the complexities of law practice, is integral to their success in practice. Where the clinical learning takes place in a closely supervised educational environment, students can critically reflect on their learning and improve their skills before dealing with the pressures and challenges of full-time practice. Clinical learning is thus quite different than the articling experience. To be sure, practical training is an important part of clinical education, and includes the development of skills such as analyzing client needs, using effective interview techniques, conducting focused legal research, drafting correspondence and legal documents and advocating for clients before courts and tribunals. However, the mandate of our clinical programs is much broader than skills training. Each of our clinics is required to have an academic component, which involves studying substantive law and reflecting on how students’ clinical experiences impact their understanding of law and our society. All of our full-term clinics also have structured academic instruction and assignments. It is this space for critical learning and inquiry that separates the law school experience from articling. After all, the three years at law school are for many lawyers the only time when they have the luxury of sitting back and reflecting on the “big picture” perspective on most legal subjects. In our rediscovery of the importance of hands-on learning, we are not eager to turn away from the impulse that brought legal training within the academy in the first place. Further, each of our clinics must assist in providing access to justice. Each year our clinical programs provide representation to hundreds of persons who would otherwise not be able to seek redress for a legal problem, or who would be left to navigate our complex legal system on their own. Providing assistance to vulnerable and marginalized persons also provides a critical opportunity for students to better understand barriers to justice and inequities in our society. Our clinical programs accordingly have academic and social objectives that differ from the articling experience. We believe that clinical programs greatly assist those students who choose to article after graduation, but feel it is still essential that students have the sustained oversight, intensive skills training and guidance provided by a principal during articling. While the emphasis on skills training may overlap and can rightly be seen as complementary, clinical legal education is neither intended nor designed to provide this critical step to independent legal practice.
Jan Advocate 2017
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