By Shyikh Mahdi
Clinical legal education is a crucial aspect of legal teaching methodology, which basically involve practical legal training through moot-court, mock-trial, participation of the students in alternative dispute resolution and also in public legal education i.e. mass legal awareness programs. It also empowers the students to indulge themselves into the realm of legal studies by incorporating opportunities and experiences of chamber practice with the lawyers and counseling, participating in court proceedings.
Clinical legal education is learning through doing, or by the experience of acting like a lawyer. It merits a separate treatment, for it is not merely a methodology of teaching or learning, it is also providing service to the people and, hence, much more practical and noble. When young students during the formative stage of their career are exposed to community legal services, they get sensitized to the problems and needs especially of the marginalized sections of the people and feel motivated to continue to work for them when they enter professional life.
The ‘Law Clinic’ or legal clinic is often regarded as an integral part of the clinical legal education program. It not only helps the students to maximize the benefits of clinical legal education by enabling them to develop key skills which a lawyer possesses, which includes client interviewing skills, marshaling of facts, arts of examination and cross-examination, civil and criminal procedure in practice, and different laws in action. Students get the opportunity to participate in a mock trial with a real court-room appearance. Law Clinic programs also include court visits, where the students can feel the vibes and intensity of real-life law practice. All of these experiences and opportunities motivate the students and invigorate their appetite for legal practice.
Background and Rationale of Law Clinics in Bangladesh
It is to be noted that Ford Foundation took an initiative to establish law clinics (for the first time in Bangladesh) about a couple of decades ago (in the mid-90s) in the University of Dhaka and University of Chittagong. The assessment of the programs stated that the law clinics are aimed to enhance Bangladeshi student skills by exposing them to legal aid and NGO work. However, recently Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) initiated two law clinics at the University of Dhaka and University of Rajshahi, which focuses more on the development of professional skills among the law students. It is often hailed as a trailblazing initiative by the participating law students who get immense benefits from these programs. Furthermore, Jahangirnagar University has included ‘Law Clinic’ as a compulsory course for 100 marks, which definitely stands as a landmark for other law schools of the country.
The idea of law clinics in private universities of Bangladesh is not prevalent up till now. However, it is important to remember that the regulatory authorities as well as the judiciary has taken bold steps recently to revitalize the standard of legal education in private universities of Bangladesh, which can be inferred from the recent two verdicts of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in the cases of Professor Syed Ali Naki and others v Bangladesh and others (decided by the High Court Division on 13 April 2016) and Bangladesh Bar Council and others v A.K.M. Fazlul Karim and others (decided by the Appellate Division on 8 February 2017). Other stakeholders such as Bangladesh Bar Council and University Grants Commission also bear the contributory duty of maintaining qualitative legal education in Bangladesh. In light of the necessity or time and context, it is pertinent to initiate clinical legal education in the forms of law clinics in law schools.
Objectives of a Law Clinic
It is established by the legal expert of the country that a law clinic should strive to achieve the following objectives in order to reap the maximum benefits for the students: 
- to acquaint the students with the lawyering process and to develop skills of advocacy;
- to expose students to the social reality and instill in them the sense of societal responsibility in professional work;
- to make one aware of the limits of the legal system and appreciate alternative lawyering skills including exposition to alternative dispute resolution; and
- to develop a sense of professional ethics.
Structure of a Law Clinic
A Law clinic can function in the following models to achieve the objectives. The best practice would be, however, to combine them all together for a more comprehensive outcome:
- Simulation: Here the students will work with some fictitious problems. With the guidance of the mentors, they will try to solve, critically analyze the problem and present their analysis through Moot Court or Mock Trial. This will help them to garner practical knowledge about the skills and techniques regarding research and drafting as well as litigation skills like submission, taking evidence, hearing etc. Some advanced models can also incorporate exercise sessions of dealing, negotiation and transactions with clients. This model also includes real-life experience, like gathering opportunities from court visits and interaction with the legal personnel. In the context of Bangladesh, this model seems more appropriate if institutional support is available.
- Community Legal Awareness Program: In this model, the students can work to develop a curriculum or information bundle for citizens and mass. Afterwards, in different segments the knowledge and information can be disseminated. One of the effective ways of doing it can be holding legal education sessions in educational institutions i.e. schools and colleges. In these cases, the topics should be presented before the students in a very simple/ engaging way so that everyone of that age group (13-18 years) can grasp the messages properly. Afterwards, a short exam can be taken to assess the reception of information as well as to encourage the school and college students to learn and engage more into these issues. This can also be a tool for motivating them to pursue a career in law.
- Externship Program: In this model, students will be engaged in work outside of their institutions which might be in a law firm or the offices of an N.G.O or any aid organization. In this program students will have the opportunity to observe the real scenario of some fields of legal practice such as documentation, conducting and negotiation with clients etc. This also includes providing legal aid to the marginalized population and free legal advice through organizing legal clinic camps etc.
Law clinic is, always should be an integral part of the law school where students can learn to be competent, ethical and socially responsible lawyers. Unfortunately, logistical and situational limitations often hinder the ways to provide better legal education for the future legal professional of the country. Incorporating clinical legal education is, therefore, a dire need of the time for the betterment of the situation and a law clinic should be the best option to nourish the flow of potent legal professionals in Bangladesh.
 Review of Legal Education in Bangladesh (Final Report and Recommendations), 2006, Law Commission of Bangladesh
 Stephen Golub, “From Village to the University: Legal Activism in Bangladesh”, in Many Roads to Justice, ed. Mary McClymont, Stephen Golub, Ford Foundation Publication, 2000, P.145.
 Rezaul Karim, “My Journey with the University of Dhaka Law Clinic: Revitalizing the Legal Education”, https://www.blast.org.bd/content/news/20-12-2016-dhaka-university-law-clinic-future-law-initiative.pdf
 Mizanur Rahman, “Clinical Legal Education in Bangladesh: Establishing a New Philosophy?”, Chittagong University Studies – Law, Vol. I, 1996, p.8.
 Wizner, Stephen, “The Law School Clinic: Legal Education in the Interests of Justice” (2002). Faculty Scholarship Series. 1843. http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/1843
The featured image is collected from the Dhaka University Law Clinic.
Shyikh Mahdi is a lawyer and blogger. He can be reached at email@example.com