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Book Review: Promoting Justice Through Clinical Legal Education Print E-mail

Promoting-justice-intro.jpgAuthor: Jeff Giddings

Publisher: Justice Press 2013

Reviewed by Alexis N. Gage

“Knowledge is Power!” – Auntie Mame 1

This textbook is progressive in that it advances an important aspect of legal education in the Australian law schools’ curriculum. The author provides an insight into a need for a standardized law school curriculum similar to the United States of America’s American Bar Association accreditation model. That is, there is a need for clinical legal education to be made a compulsory part of the legal curriculum in Australian law schools. 

Promoting Justice Through Clinical Legal Education is divided into three parts with eleven chapters. Although the textbook reads like a PhD dissertation, it is, nonetheless, very comprehensive and easy to comprehend. The first part of the book focuses on the potential of clinical legal education. The second part provides for four case studies of Australian clinical legal education and the third concentrates on the future of clinical legal education in Australian law schools.

Overall, the chapters are well organised and easy to follow. Chief Justice Robert S French, AC is the author of a very informative foreword. Professor Giddings’ part I presents and outlines the importance of clinical legal education as a tool in promoting justice. These five chapters draw upon the historical development of clinical legal education in the United States of America. As an American, I found it very interesting that Professor Giddings’ research depended more on American insights than English. He does provide some limited Scottish and Canadian insights too. In addition, part one of the book allows the reader to gain an understanding of the evolution of clinical legal education in law schools, internationally, as well as in Australian law schools.

The second part of the book presents four case studies of Australian clinical legal education. Professor Giddings is brilliant in examining four law schools and their clinical legal education programs. He dedicates a chapter to each law school. Chapter six focuses on Monash University in Victoria. Chapter seven focuses on the University of New South Wales, a Go8 university. Chapters eight and nine focus, respectively, on the University of Newcastle in New South Wales and Murdoch University in Western Australia.

These four chapters provide an insight into the case study of each of these respective university’s clinical legal education programs. I found the lack of a centralized accreditation model like the American Bar Association’s (the US model) resulted in the clinical legal education programs having to meet a law school standard of grading as well as the monitoring of legal practice. However, the programs succeeded in passing on great benefit to their respective communities by allowing access to legal resources, allowing students opportunities to apply legal principles to real situations, and by raising the standards of legal practice.

The final part of Promoting Justice Through Clinical Legal Education focuses on the future of clinical legal education in Australian law schools. Professor Giddings provides his version of framework and action for promoting clinical legal education in Australian law schools. However, I believe that the lack of a centralized accreditation for law schools will leave open the possibility law school curriculums watering down standards so as to create quasi-law degrees that may result in the production second-rate lawyers.

I do agree with Professor Giddings that it is necessary to incorporate clinical legal education in a standardized law curriculum for Australian law schools. In conclusion, Australian law schools should look for a national accreditation for their law schools with clinical legal education an essential part of that national standard. Because of the likelihood of free trade agreement to recognize qualifications, the Australian legal profession should direct its future with an eye to an international scale so that Australian lawyers may be afforded the same opportunities as their counter-parts in the American, Canadian, and European professions.

Professor Giddings, through Promoting Justice Through Clinical Legal Education, enlightens us as to likely international requirements in respect of a crucial part of legal education in Australia.

Alexis N Gage
18 November 2013

1 Patrick Dennis (novel), Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Screen play). Auntie Mame, 1958.

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