- Services offered | what services does the clinic offer?
The UCT Law Clinic provides legal assistance to persons who qualify in terms of the means test prescribed by the statutory Legal Aid Board and the guidelines laid down by the Law Society of the Cape of Good Hope, but subject to the discretion of the Director and/or the Clinic attorneys. At the same time, the Clinic provides professional training and exposure to LLB students through the Community Service structure, whereby UCT LLB students must complete 30 hours of community service at a Faculty-accredited legal services provider in order to graduate.
- Why the Clinic exists | what is the rationale for the clinic, why do clinics exist at Law Schools?
Law Clinics are a feature of all of the world's best law schools. These clinics provide hands-on legal experience to law school students, through the provision of legal services to probono clients. To be an accredited Law clinic in South Africa, services must be offered pro bono - ie. free legal services to clients. Clinics are therefore not-for-profit law practices serving marginalised communities and those otherwise unable to access legal advice and support.
- Training for students | how does the clinic contribute to student training?
The UCT Law Clinic provides an excellent opportunity for law students to gain practical experience in the provision of legal services, client and case management, and the practice of law. In addition, the Law Clinic conducts some research through which students gain research experience, and the Clinic runs a formal credit-bearing elective on legal practice.
- History of the Clinic | how/ when did it start?
The UCT Law Clinic, which was started by law students in the early 1970s, was the first university law clinic to be established in South Africa. The first community clinic opened in Kensington in 1973, following which other clinics were established in disadvantaged areas in the Western Cape. Students provided legal advice to clients at these clinics, assisted by practicing attorneys. This model was replicated across South Africa in the 1980s, with law faculties appointing attorneys to manage and run the law clinics. In 1989 the UCT Law Clinic appointed its first Director.
Today, the Clinic has evolved from a student run initiative to a fully functioning law practice and a Cape Law Society accredited law clinic operating within the UCT Law Faculty. The Law Clinic is run by a professional staff of experienced practising attorneys who litigate in the District, Regional and High Courts on behalf of indigent people who would otherwise not have access to the law. The Clinic is a paying member of the Cape Law Society and adheres strictly to its guidelines with regard to ethical and professional conduct and to statutory obligations of the profession. The Clinic was registered as a practice on 28 May 1993 with practice number 1713. The UCT Law Clinic is guided by an Advisory Board, the members of which include the Dean of the Law Faculty, the Director of the Law Clinic, one or more Clinic Attorneys and other persons who can contribute meaningfully to the development of the Clinic. The Advisory Board is not involved in the day-to-day running of the Clinic.
Currently, funding is provided by the Attorneys Fidelity Fund (which funds clinical legal education in South Africa), from Legal Aid South Africa, and from the UCT Law Faculty (for general operating expenses). Additional funding is accessed by application on an ad hoc basis for specific purposes.
In 2002 the Legal Aid and Legal Practice elective (now the Clinical Legal Practice course) was approved by the Faculty’s Academic Planning Committee. The Law Clinic is a member of the South African University Law Clinics Association (SAULCA), whose vision is ‘to be a professional and efficient organization committed to democratic values and human rights and dedicated to promoting excellence in clinical legal education and access to justice’.
- Benefits to the Faculty | what value does the clinic offer the Faculty?
Any world-class Law school these days will be home to a Law Clinic - throug which students gain practical training and exposure to legal practice by offering legal services on a pro-bono basis to those unable to afford standard legal fees, or who struggle to access justice because of other systemic mechanisms. The UCT Law Clinic therefore contributes not only to UCT Law's standing in the community through its provision of probono services, but also stands proud with its long tradition of providing such services and providing training to students.