If you follow law on Twitter, you’ll likely have seen a…lively discussion on the merits of a new McKenzie Friends registry. I don’t intend to get into that discussion- I don’t know nearly enough- but the involvement of two HEIs does lead to one of my thesis topics:
is clinical legal education a form of public legal education?
Certainly legal aid has been described as taking on the role of PLE, back when it was well funded. The post LASPO legal aid system, in particular cuts to funding, is mentioned as one reason for reviving efforts at PLE. People are now not getting PLE via the advice given in legal aid supported cases.
Legal aid as PLE is what we might call PLE by proxy. The aim of legal aid is of course to enable people to vindicate their rights, but in the process they might gain a better understanding of the law in the area of their case. This is a form of ‘just in time’ learning (1)- knowledge acquired at the time of need, as opposed to ‘just in case’ knowledge acquired without a specific issue in mind.
Clinical legal education, in particular law clinics, can be seen as a similar form of ‘just in time’ PLE. PLE is not the aim of the clinic, usually, but it can be a beneficial outcome. Planning for PLE would enable clinics to function more effectively as sites of PLE.
Streetlaw is the main example of a clinical approach which has PLE as its main aim, and is a form of ‘just in case.’ Whilst the topics are relevant to the audience, there is not a pressing legal issue to be dealt with at the time. The main problem with Streetlaw is it of necessity focuses on a particular audience and topic, and whilst PLE is its aim, it must also deliver on pedagogy and student experience.
There has been work in which law students created teaching materials for schools (2) and this could be extended by linking the kind of cases that come into clinics to the help materials prepared.
Oh, OK, on the McK Friends thing? Seems like an OK idea, poorly executed, and driven by a hazy commitment to ‘entrepreneurship.’ It’s not the answer.
(2) (2016) Dawn Watkins & Maribel Canto-Lopez ‘Working with law students to develop legal literacy materials’ The Law Teacher, 50:2, 195-208 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03069400.2015.1064668