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Clinical Legal Education – what does that actually mean?

Clinical legal education is a way of learning that translates theory into reality. There is no set definition of clinical legal education, but it usually involves law students solving case queries alongside qualified practitioners, either in a real-life law clinic or as part of a practical exercise.

The Clinical Legal Education Handbook defines it as: any clinic activity (whether accredited or extra-curricular) in which each student takes responsibility for legal or law-related work for a client (whether real or simulated) in collaboration with a supervisor.

If you have the opportunity to develop these skills from day one of your degree, then it brings the concept of access to justice to life. Practically, it also gives you a chance to see what working in a particular area of law is actually like.

Put simply, clinical legal education is about practicing what you preach. Learning by doing.

Not only does this practical approach to law really improve your problem-solving skills, more importantly, it places the clients at the heart of your work and demonstrates how empowering legal knowledge can be.
Extract from PILS' blog post for the Activist Lawyer

Our work with universities

Clinical legal education is a growing trend. In 2020, 78 law schools in England and Wales responded to a study by LawWorks and CLEO. 77 of them offered their students pro bono opportunities!

And Northern Ireland universities are getting involved too. The students that work at the University of Ulster’s award-winning Law Clinic provide representation in employment, family and social security cases.

PILS have great links with universities in Belfast.

  • We have been invited to talk with law students at Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast and love the discussions we have about all things public interest litigation.
  • Since 2019, we’ve also collaborated with the Institute of Professional Legal Studies in Belfast, appearing on the human rights syllabus.

By reshaping the way that legal education is delivered, the next generation of lawyers are better prepared to be creative, humane and informed advocates.

If your law school or institution would like to learn more about PILS’ work, please get in touch!


We’ve got some news: PILS want to create a space for law students to volunteer and gain practical public interest experience during their time at university.


This might involve carrying out research in relation to a particular legal matter, helping us to develop training tools, or being part of a PILS event.

If you are a university student – or a staff member of university faculty – that would like to be kept up-to-date as our Volunteer Register plan develops, please fill out this quick form:

Register your interest!

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