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Title: Unearthing the Yet to be Explored Path in Africa: Lessons from Library Based Legal Clinics in the United States

Lead Presenter: Bamgbose, Oludayo John


  1. Whalen-Bridge, Helena

Session Abstract: World over, Clinical Legal Education (CLE) has been widely acknowledged for its pivotal role in equipping budding lawyers with the requisite skills and competencies required for effective legal practice upon graduation from the law school. Besides being a nursery for nurturing would-be pro bono lawyers, CLE provides unfettered access to justice for individuals who ordinarily would have been excluded if left to pay for their legal services. With time, there continues to be increase in the number of law clinics, most especially, in the western world, with some law schools having multiple clinics and thereby, increasing the scope of operations of these clinics. However, despite increase across different jurisdictions, there seems to be a great disequilibrium between the level of increase in the number of clinics and the demand for justice, particularly, in developing economies, hence the call for increase in the capacity of law clinics in Africa to attend to the geometric rise in the demand for justice by the poor. In response to the general request for multiplicity of law clinics, there have been commendable efforts by law libraries to have independently managed law library legal clinics that will attend to the justice needs of persons. Meanwhile, despite the efforts of these library-based clinics in augmenting the efforts of conventional faculty-based law clinics, review of literature reveals dearth of scholarly efforts at documenting the experiences and achievements of these library-based clinics. It is against this background that this research examines the concept of law library legal clinic and its role in the advancement of legal education using the Unites States as a case study. To achieve the set objective, the study comparatively investigated activities of a total of ten law library legal clinics comprising of five university based law library legal clinics and the remaining five clinics from the public law library, using doctrinal and non-doctrinal approaches. The findings revealed that despite the under reportage of the role of law library clinics, these clinics have actually been instrumental to providing access to justice in the United States. The study further highlights the inherent benefits and perceived constraints in the adoption of law library legal clinic above the conventional legal clinics. It is recommended that Africa adopts the American-styled law library legal clinics. Beyond ensuring that Africans are able to access justice through this new bride, law library based legal clinics could potentially attract more users to the law library, thereby, addressing the decline in the general use of law library by leading to improved academic and technical performances. The study also asserts that while much can be achieved in Africa through law library based clinics, it also rekindles the hope of attracting other forms of legal clinics. Finally, while the study explores the benefits of law library legal clinics in Africa and to Africans, the findings might be of benefits to legal systems in other jurisdictions.

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