The practice of providing free legal aid to poor people has been always existing. However, the term "clinical legal education" appeared in the early twentieth century in the United States. Its appearance has identified a new trend in the field of legal science.
The practice of providing free legal aid to poor people has been always existing. However, the term “clinical legal education” appeared in the early twentieth century in the United States. Its appearance has identified a new trend in the field of legal science. In the 70-ties legal clinics in America were already a common practice. The American Bar Association accredit “clinics”. The organization considers the clinical education as one of the options for students to obtain knowledge and practice. Then, this experience spread to other countries. In Ukraine, the first legal clinic appeared in 1996. It is a legal clinic Pro bono (which means “for the good”) at Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University.
Now a legal clinic is a structural subdivision of law schools, where law students practice under the supervision, providing free legal assistance. According to the MES’s Decree # 592, legal clinics should function in all III-IV accreditation levels’ educational institutions, which train specialists in “Law”, regardless of ownership and subordination.
Roman Romanov, Human Rights and Justice Program Initiative Director at the International Renaissance Foundation says, “Practice, a student obtains in legal clinics, is quite worth, because it helps to bind theoretical knowledge, gained at the university, with a real practical world.”
The activities of legal clinics in Ukraine, development of legal clinical education in collaboration with executive authorities which are carrying out state policy in the field of legal education, the leading providers of legal assistance and international institutions were discussed during a roundtable dedicated to the 20th anniversary of legal clinics in Ukraine held in Kyiv-Mohyla Academy on the 14th of December.
Since 2005, the Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine has been working in Ukraine; it supports legal clinics’ activities, promotes the development of clinical legal education and implementation of appropriate scientific and educational programs in Ukraine.
The Association consists of 2000 teachers and students who annually provide more than 10,000 legal consultations, run 1000 legal education classes in street law for 30000 Ukrainian teenagers. Over the years, the Association’s members adapted the world’s best practice approaches to teaching law students, human rights and legal education to the Ukrainian legal and social realities. Besides that, Ukrainian legal clinics’ community became a subject of scientific analysis, and its positive experience was described in numerous master’s and doctorate’s researches in law and pedagogy.
The Association includes 56 legal clinics. But 3 years ago, there were 80 of them. Why? The point is that the Ministry “ordered”, “To ensure the establishment of legal clinics and their functioning.” But there was no financial support for that, “Financing of the legal clinics is at the expense of higher education, grants of international and Ukrainian organizations, charitable contributions of citizens and organizations and other sources not prohibited by current legislation of Ukraine.” Thus, motivation of teachers and curators, who have no extra charges to pay, is quite low, and even less is the students’ interest. “
So Andriy Galay, Doctor of Law, Executive Director of the Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine, stresses the need to “adopt an updated Regulation on the activities of a legal clinic, which will reflect the provisions for: a branch; availability of clinical legal education in universities under license; “Fundamentals of Law Clinical Practice” studying course; normalization of legal clinics staff’s duties; financial support; graduate certificate; special practice in legal clinics. “
Summarizing, Mykola Sioma, Director of the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation, said, “Legal clinics is a movement of university teachers and students who, working every day and increasing their knowledge, help vulnerable categories of society to get quality legal aid. This movement keeps on teachers’ citizenship and their enthusiasm, which is not limitless. Legal clinics will surely require regulatory consolidation as university departments, so it will solve the involvement of teachers and significantly enhance the quality of teaching and the provision of legal services to clients. Today, MES is expressing support and interest in the revival of clinical legal movement, the public sector, international organizations, and most importantly – Ukrainian society hope so.”