As a law clinician for almost a year, I have observed that the essence of a Legal Clinic for us is the way it works and the interest for law students to participate.
What is a legal clinic?
Inspired by the American legal clinic movement, the legal clinic structure, although not universal in Morocco, is emerging in our universities.
The Legal Clinic is a learning tool that operates on a voluntary basis and attempts to meet both the need for legal information of natural and legal persons and the need for practical experience on the part of law students, which is quite common from the first year of the Master’s degree. The “clinicians,” the name given to the members of a legal clinic, offer free legal assistance supervised by teachers or legal professionals.
If you are bored of endless theory and feel a lack of reality in your law studies, the legal clinic is the ideal solution to enrich your professional life during your university years.
How is a Legal Clinic organized?
As there is no unique structure in Morocco, a legal clinic is different depending on the university in which it is located and the office that constitutes it.
However, some common features could be highlighted. For example, it usually consists of an office, which is responsible for the promotion of the clinic, its communication and general administration, as well as assistants and practicing clinicians.
The assistants, who are experienced clinicians, have the main role of supervising the team of clinicians assembled to study a proposed case. They meet with the “beneficiary,” i.e. the natural or legal person who has contacted the Legal Clinic to discuss their legal problem. They then ask the beneficiary the questions necessary to understand the case, form a team with volunteer clinicians, and finally provide the conclusion of the research carried out.
Clinicians, whether or not they are specialists in the subject under study, can volunteer to participate in research related to the legal issues raised.
Deepening known notions, discovering subjects, listening, studying, researching… the clinician’s work is above all a learning exercise. Don’t be afraid of not being a specialist: even with a doctorate, it is impossible to be an expert in a field!
Research work is at the heart of the Clinic. In addition, the support of more experienced professionals or students guarantees the relevance of the statements made!
What are the tasks of the members of a Legal Clinic?
The missions carried out by clinicians are multiple and constitute a real asset for their future profession in law. This experience should be highlighted on their CV, as it is highly valued by law firms!
First of all, the meeting with the “beneficiary” requires the identification of legal problems. Far from practical cases highlighting the points to be researched, this is a real exercise at the heart of the daily life of lawyers: identifying within a multitude of facts, more or less relevant, the key elements that will allow efficient answers to the general problematic of the case.
Secondly, clinicians need to do real research work.
While it is not necessary to be a specialist in the subject, however, it is essential to provide accurate and relevant answers to the beneficiary. No one could be a specialist in any way in a master or doctorate degree! The student clinician must therefore learn to conduct research to find information relevant to the case presented: this may be requested instantly during legal consultations, or a posteriori when the cases are more substantial and require more in-depth study.
Finally, working in a Legal Clinic requires an effort of simplification. The clinician must be able to adapt his or her words, to make them accessible to all, so that the claimants can understand the elements reported.
What advice would you give to a student who wants to join a legal clinic?
Only this: do it! If your faculty offers a Legal Clinic and you are hesitating to join, don’t wait any longer, « contact the office! » It is a very rewarding experience, combining volunteer work with your first experience in a professional environment.
Mohammed Amine Jbilou is a PHD student in “Private Law” at the University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, Faculty of Legal Sciences, Economic and Social, ranked as the best university in Morocco.