“People still deny that there is an organization to provide legal assistance–and free of charge–apart from the traditional organizations we know. For me, if I had the opportunity to communicate with people and introduce them to the legal clinic, I would tell them that the Clinique Juridique has a staff that is professional and motivated to help them, and most importantly, that this legal aid is free.”
Fadila Bennis is a student clinician at the Clinique Juridique de la Faculté de Droit, and she shares her experience in the following interview with High Atlas Foundation intern, Nicole Luz. Bennis completed her Baccalaureat in 2012, her Master’s Degree five years later, and is currently in her second year of her PhD in Law. She is in her first year of training with the legal aid clinic, having started in September 2020.
The Clinique Juridique de la Faculté de Droit (CJFD) is run by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in partnership with the Faculty of Juridical, Social, and Economical Sciences at the University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in Fez and HAF. With funding from the National Endowment for Democracy and the Middle Eastern Partnership Initiative, the CJFD offers legal assistance to migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, human trafficking survivors, those seeking family mediation, and any others in need in the Fez region (call +212 (0) 6 63 61 05 51 or visit https://cliniquejuridiquefes.org/contact/).
How did you become interested in law, and in working with the Clinique Juridique in particular?
For the first question, in general, I chose law because of my love for the field. It is a field that has always interested me since I was a child, and I have always dreamed of working in law. And for the Clinique Juridique in particular, at first I did not have any specific information about the legal aid clinic. I discovered it through a friend who is also a clinician, in the first class. He introduced me to the Clinique Juridique and its principles, and as a person who enjoys social work and is motivated by volunteering, I decided to apply to join the second class of the clinic… And today I am with you!
What is your role in the clinic? What kind of work do you do?
Up to now it has been a learning role because I am part of the second class, and our training is not finished yet. I can divide myself currently into two roles: The first role is to develop and improve our knowledge and skills in order to provide reliable and correct legal assistance to the clients of the legal aid clinic. The second role is to apply these assets on a practical level, and to learn how to increase and lead clients from A-Z after we finish our training. So, my actual role will start soon, after the training.
Do you prefer to work individually with clients or in a group?
Personally, I am comfortable with both. The choice is not mine; the choice is according to the case and the clients. There are some cases, for example, if the file that is in front of us is a family mediation file, it requires individual work to guarantee the client respect for their confidentiality and to make them feel comfortable to communicate the problem. On the other hand, if the case is one of entrepreneurship or immigrant regularization, for example, I don’t mind working in a group; on the contrary, I am a person who likes group work.
What are your references for answering clients’ questions? Are they reliable?
Immediately and quite inevitably, the first reference and the primary foundation of the legal assistance is the law. And when we say the law, we see it as a very reliable source; it is a source that knows no errors. So for me, the reference for answering patients’ questions is the law and jurisprudence.
Do you ask for the assistance of the director/co-director when processing the file?
Yes, of course. This is normal because, first of all, it is a training course, so we need the assistance of the director or the co-director. When you start a job, you always start with on-the-job training. But once you have mastered the procedure and the workflow, you will not need this assistance. Perhaps, you ask for assistance just to be sure that the answer you have presented is correct, or to improve your work. But it is important to note that in the field of law in general, there is always a second opinion. It is a field that requires communication. Maybe I propose a solution, and a friend of mine, or another clinician, or even another teacher proposes another solution. So having a second opinion and having advice from the mentors and people who have more experience is always so important.
What is the biggest challenge you have found while working in the legal aid clinic?
The biggest challenge–and indeed it is not just for one person, it is relative to the entire clinic–is a global challenge, relating to COVID. This health situation has had consequences that have sometimes slowed down training or prevented the travel of some associations and the excursions that we do.
Has the pandemic situation affected your experience with the clinic? Do you see an effect on the work of the clinic?
I can say that it is true, COVID is a challenge for us, but it has not affected the experience much because we still do training in a way respectful of health guidelines. So COVID makes things more difficult, but it hasn’t prevented the work.
What is your favorite or most rewarding part of working with the clinic?
For me, the favorite part is the satisfaction after helping people, to resolve the legal issues that they have contacted us about. That joy you see in the clients’ eyes is the most satisfying thing for me.
In your opinion, what improvements can be made to the legal aid service?
For the legal aid service, it is composed of a magnificent staff, a well-trained and very professional staff, so for me, within the legal service, there is not much improvement to be made. On the other hand, as far as the legal aid clinic’s action is concerned, I propose that the scope of the clinic’s operations and action could be expanded to include more areas besides those which it already focuses on, those being family mediation, asylum, immigration, human trafficking, and entrepreneurship. Since there are several clinicians, an effective and important human resource, why not help more people?
If you could say something to encourage people to seek assistance at the Clinic, what would it be?
People still deny that there is an organization to provide legal assistance–and free of charge–apart from the traditional organizations we know. For me, if I had the opportunity to communicate with people and introduce them to the legal clinic, I would tell them that the Clinique Juridique has a staff that is professional and motivated to help them, and most importantly, that this legal aid is free.