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De Jure Law Journal

versión On-line ISSN 2225-7160
versión impresa ISSN 1466-3597


DU PLESSIS, M.A. (Riette). The role of clinical legal education in developing ethical legal professionals. De Jure (Pretoria) [online]. 2021, vol.54, n.1, pp.278-297. ISSN 2225-7160.

Training in legal professionalism and ethics is a vital part of any legal education. Teaching these aspects according to the Socratic method generally proves to be ineffective in producing the desired result. A lawyer's actual life experience, which include happiness and career satisfaction, is rarely included. This article will explore on what it means to be an ethical human being and consider the teaching of professionalism and ethics by way of the clinical legal education methodology. Clinics have particular riches to offer and discussing professionalism, values and ethics in a clinical setting can assist students to begin to identify their own professional sense. University law clinics serve as a role model in legal practice about how a legal practitioner should behave and what ethical decision-making means. The link between culture and ethics, which informs a person's sense of morality and ethics, is explored, with application to diversity and multiculturalism. In clinical context, students assume a high degree of responsibility by taking instructions from clients and they will benefit from cooperative learning where they will begin to develop a deep understanding of professionalism and ethical practice. Through tutorials and debriefing sessions and later in their reflection assignments, students discuss and reflect on aspects of the law, the legal system, their own interviewing skills and the experience of the client. In their reflection assignments, students readily identify areas for improvement but also refer to what they are able to achieve in their interview, building their motivation and sense of autonomy. Ongoing reflection and constructive feedback thereon will support a commitment to ethical and professionally competent, self-directed and autonomous lawyering. Clinical training affords students the opportunity to explore their legal professional and ethical behaviours and values, allowing them to develop in capable, self-directed and independent practitioners who will not only assume responsibility for their individual clients, but also contribute to their communities.

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