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On-line version ISSN 2411-7870
Print version ISSN 1021-545X


DU PLESSIS, MA (Riette). Forty-five years of clinical legal education in South Africa. Fundamina (Pretoria) [online]. 2019, vol.25, n.2, pp.12-34. ISSN 2411-7870.

In the fourth century BC, Socrates and Aristotle - and in the thirteenth century AD, Roger Bacon - viewed "induction or experimentation as the sine qua non of all knowledge". In the nineteenth century, John Dewey proposed that true education is derived from reflective life experience, rather than from merely memorising facts. These views, over centuries, still underscore the clinical legal education (CLE) methodology. A comparative analysis indicates the development of legal education and CLE in the USA and South Africa. This contribution discusses the establishment and evolution of CLE at South African universities from the 1970s, through the client-centred focus during the 1980s, the accreditation of university law clinics by the South African Law Society in 1993, and the establishment of AULAI (now SAULCA), whose primary focus is to promote clinical programmes in South Africa. In particular, this contribution looks at the development of CLE at the Wits Law Clinic, currently aligned with global best practices in CLE, and at student education and scholarship, whilst assisting the poor and marginalised. The diversity in our multicultural society impacts on students' receptivity to particular forms of CLE, which were accentuated during student campaigns in 2015 to decolonise curricula. The challenges and the processes of decolonising the CLE curriculum may lie in focusing on culture, language, professional ethics and on the clients served by the clinic.

Keywords : Clinical legal education; CLE; university law clinics; clinical programmes; Wits Law Clinic; access to justice; live-client clinic; academic scholarship; decolonisation of the curriculum.

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