Move to clinical legal education
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Move to clinical legal education

From October 2016, clinical legal education has become a compulsory subject of the masters of advocacy degree. It relates to case studies of many of the major legal issues practising advocates come in contact with. This is done through simulation and acquisition of legal skills. We also hope to develop internships once the draft bill known as the Lawyers’ Act becomes law.

In simulation classes, students are presented with a case study and, although the facts of the case need not necessarily be real, it allows students to think how to solve a problem as though it was given to them by a client in a real-life situation. Simulation takes place in various ways such as in moot courts; mock trials; mediation, negotiation and conciliation exercises; client interviewing exercises; witness interviewing exercises; and legal drafting and legal writing programmes. These now form part of a 30 ECTS study-unit on professional practice.

Clinical education develops legal skills. Hence, undergraduate law students are now being trained and assessed in the acquisition of legal skills apart from legal theory. These skills include research, communication, interviewing, counselling, legal drafting, legal writing, negotiating, problem solving, interpersonal, organisational, reflective practice and pro-bono skills.

Examiners are assessing the three semester October 2016-September 2017 professional practice component of the advocacy course through a combination of different assessment methods such as a reflexive diary, log books, presentations, oral examinations, written exercises, assignments and report writing.

The Faculty of Laws intends to work hand in hand with the Chamber of Advocates to afford placements to students

By incorporating the above aspects of clinical legal education in the advocacy course, we hope to provide future advocates with new skills never imparted before which will better equip them once they start to practise their legal career and this in combination with the legal education gained in the Bachelor of Laws (Honours) four-year degree course and the theoretical component of their Master of Advocacy degree course.

Experiential learning poses a direct challenge to students to apply what they have learnt in class to real world situations. Clinical legal education thus contributes to develop a crop of legal professionals who learn how to apply legal knowledge and experience they have gained at University to their future clients’ needs.

They also learn the legal requirements of the public administration and experience directly the world of the legal profession. Students not only learn from their own individual experience but also from their colleagues and faculty staff.

As to the future, once the Lawyers’ Act becomes law and legal practise (prattika) is increased from one to two years, the Faculty of Laws intends to work hand in hand with the Chamber of Advocates to afford placements to students following the Master of Advocacy.

We aim to organise student placements with law firms, legal practitioners, government departments, public bodies and private firms which have a legal department, non-voluntary government organisations and foundations where law students can obtain this practical experience in the law.

Moreover, internships are intended to be supervised by two supervisors: a principal supervisor from the faculty who will be addressing the academic content of the internship and a co-supervisor in the field who will be supervising the student more directly in the field. Internships allow students to comprehend better the administrative intricacies of the public administration with which they will come in daily contact as professionals and how to work out what are the bureaucratic requirements of these state institutions to provide a good service to their clients.

Kevin Aquilina is the Dean of the Faculty of Laws at the University of Malta.

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