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October 2015 NUI Galway Law Lecturer Publishes Report on Clinical Legal Education
Dr Bryan McMahon, retired Judge of the High Court and former part-time Professor of Law at NUI Galway, recently launched a new report, Clinical Legal Education in Ireland: Progress and Potential. The report was written by Larry Donnelly, Lecturer and Director of Clinical Legal Education in NUI Galway’s School of Law, and was commissioned by the Dublin-based Free Legal Advice Centres Ltd (FLAC) and Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA).
Clinical legal education, which has at its core “learning by doing” and the furtherance of the public interest, exposes law students to how the law works in practice. In Irish clinical legal education programmes, law students work with law firms, barristers, non-governmental organisations, government bodies and in related fields. They are awarded academic credit for and assessed upon their performance in these “real world” placements. NUI Galway’s School of Law has been nationally and internationally recognised for its clinical legal education programme, which was founded by Mr Donnelly in academic year 2005-2006.
The report includes statistics on the existing clinical legal education programmes in Ireland; interviews with directors of clinical programmes, supervisors and law students; examinations of two clinical programmes in the UK; and a series of reflections and recommendations for the future development of clinical legal education in Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, Larry Donnelly said: “This report is the first attempt to critically analyse recent advances in clinical legal education in Ireland and I hope that it will spur a discussion about the future among all of the relevant stakeholders. Clinical legal education has the unique capacity to create disorienting moments for students – in which law students are forced to confront circumstances that are directly at odds with their life and educational experiences to date. The disorienting moment should be at the heart of legal education.”
Professor Donncha O’Connell, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Law, congratulated Larry Donnelly on the publication of the report: “The report cements our already strong reputation as a national leader in providing an optimal legal education combining both theory and practice. This is the best means of preparing graduates for working in a rapidly changing, increasingly globalised environment.”