Electronic Magazine

2012-11-17

Magazine - November 2012

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Clinical Legal Education

Traditionally, education at Palestinian colleges and universities has been book-based. Students are required to read large amounts of texts from textbooks (which are often not Palestinian but Jordanian or Egyptian), and then regurgitate memorized information on exams. As a result, students studying law in Palestine graduate with law degrees that offer them little understanding of the concrete, legal world around them. Graduates leave university with much 'information', but little skills and ideas of how to apply them.

Also, within the Palestinian legal education system, the particularities of the Palestinian situation, both domestically and within the framework of international law, receives very little coverage. The Al Quds Human Rights Clinic aims to change this dynamic by giving students the opportunity to apply their acquired legal knowledge to practical work in the field. Clinical students at Al Quds study domestic and international human rights and humanitarian law and its application to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and within Israel, and apply this knowledge through fieldwork with local human rights NGOs. The pedagogical component of the clinical program consists of readings, weekly lectures by local and international experts, and discussion. The practical component of the Clinic involves students volunteering in their communities with local human rights NGOs, closely supervised by a mentor within the NGO and by a supervising attorney in the Clinic.

The Clinic promotes "learning through practice" and believes that working on practical fieldwork projects with seasoned lawyers and organizations can greatly increase the students' confidence, both in the law as vehicle for social and political change and in them as agents of such change. The Clinic is designed to stimulate student initiative and encourage pro-activity, as well as to foster the courage and the ability of the students to critically assess their situation, and develop practical methods and strategies to address their problems.

Clinical Legal Education combines theory and practice. It differs from classroom-based education because it provides a unique and structured educational opportunity for students to observe or experience legal work and to extract appropriate skills, values and ethics from that experience. Also, the use of experiential teaching methods allows student to perform and engage with the law in ways that theoretical lectures or readings alone often cannot. Legal Practice skills practiced in clinics include: Developing Case Theory and Legal Strategy, Interviewing, Client Counseling, Collaboration, Decision Making, Field Research, Reporting, Field Reporting, Documentation, Fact Investigation, and Advocacy.

Clinics provide an important service to the community. They provide an important supplement for the provision of needed legal services to persons who would otherwise not have access to the legal system or to organizations that are under-resourced. At the same time they offer students the opportunity to actively engage in their societies, helping to create a cadre of responsible and engaged legal professionals.

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