Comparing Experiential Legal Education in Canada and India

AuthorRhea Roy Mammen
Published date01 January 2021
Date01 January 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Comparing Experiential Legal
Education in Canada and India
Rhea Roy Mammen1
Legal education has evolved over several centuries across the globe, and its effectiveness is a matter
of significant concern not merely for legal practitioners but also for society in general. One approach
that has been gaining considerable attention is the concept of experiential legal education, which is at
different levels of implementation across the world. Countries such as the United States and Canada
have been pioneers in implementing this form of legal education, which is also known as clinical legal
education (CLE), whereas India is striving to catch up. This article attempts to inspect and compare the
development and implementation of CLE in Canada and India. The findings from the comparison are then
utilized to inform the way ahead for CLE in India. While pursuing this objective, the article also examines
the concept of experiential education, in general, and in the context of legal education, in particular.
Moreover, insights are provided regarding CLE. The status of experiential legal education in Canada
is reviewed, and the author’s experience in Canada under the Shastri Research Student Fellowship
(SRSF) is detailed to provide the author’s insights regarding the implementation of experiential legal
education in Canada. The evolution of experiential legal education in India is also detailed, together with
insights regarding the regulations of the Bar Council of India (BCI) as are relevant to CLE. Finally, the
article compares the author’s opinion of the present status of CLE in Canada and India and provides
recommendations to enhance the future implementation of CLE in India.
Over the past years, law schools have encountered considerable pressure to participate in grave self-
examination regarding their effectiveness in helping their students and in undertaking significant changes
to syllabus and pedagogy, especially with regard to offering opportunities for experiential learning and
making sure that graduates are equipped for practice.2 In fact, a 2007 report by the Carnegie Foundation
reported that ‘[t]he gap between learning how to think like a lawyer and being capable of acting like a
Asian Journal of Legal Education
8(1) 34–51, 2021
© 2020 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2322005820946698
Corresponding author:
Rhea Roy Mammen, Ramaiah College of law And Research Scholar, NLSIU, #265, 9th Cross, Tatanagar, Bengaluru,
Karnataka 560092, India.
1 Assistant Professor Sen. Scl. (Law), Ramaiah College of law And Research Scholar, NLSIU, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
2 R. L. Jones Jr., Experience the Future: Papers from the Second National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law, 7 Elon
l. REv. 43, 2 (2015).
Mammen 35
lawyer, both clinically and morally is, if anything, greater than it has ever been before’.3 Furthermore,
this report, in answer to this mismatch, advocated a substantial focus on skills concerned with practice
and values intended to instil a ‘sense of professional identity and purpose’.4 The Carnegie Report
concluded that legal education should endeavour to combine ‘in a single educational framework, the two
sides of legal knowledge: (a) formal knowledge and (b) the experience of practice’.5 Another publication
that called for similar reforms was Best Practices for Legal Education: A Vision and a Roadmap (‘Best
Practices’). This report further detailed the elements, curricular and pedagogical, that most significantly
impact the preparation of graduates to be professionals who are capable and compassionate.6 The
response of institutes of legal education and related stakeholders to these, and other similar reports, has
been to direct their attention to experiential legal education.
In this regard, Canada was among the first countries to experience a wave of experiential legal
education. India is a later adopter of this concept of experiential legal education, which is referred to as
clinical legal education (CLE) in the country.7 This article attempts to compare the present status of
experiential legal education in Canada and India based on the author’s experiences in both countries. In
doing so, it seeks to trace the evolution of experiential legal education in the two countries, together with
their present status of implementation. Moreover, the article will share the author’s perspectives regarding
the implementation of experiential legal education in Canada based on her experiences under the Shastri
Research Student Fellowship (SRSF) and compare the implementation of experiential legal education in
Canada and India.
The Concept of Experiential Education
In general, a learning process that is experiential utilizes experience as an instrument for learning.
Moreover, experiential learning places emphasis on the process of learning rather than merely the content
being studied.8 Kolb describes it as ‘the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation
of experience’,9 that is, after making a start with a tangible experience, a student examines and considers
his/her own experiences. Further, experiential education is described by Stevens and Richards as an
activity in which students go through an experience with tangible outcomes, instead of studying about
the experiences of others. Moreover, students ponder over their experiences to mature ‘new skills, new
attitudes, and new theories or ways of thinking’.10 Cantor11 observed that as an approach to education,
experiential education helps ‘active multisensory involvement’ of students with respect to some facets of
3 William m. Sullivan Et al., Educating laWyERS: PREPaRation FoR thE PRoFESSion oF laW (Carnegie Foundation for the
Advancement of Teaching 2007).
4 Id. at 87–125.
5 Id. at 12.
6 Roy StucKEy Et al., BESt PRacticES FoR lEgal Education: a viSion and a RoadmaP (Clinical Legal
Education Association 2007).
7 L. R. Bliss & S. Chinvinijkul, Preparing Law Students for Global Practice: An Innovative Model for Teaching Lawyering Skills
and Social Justice in a Large Enrolment Law Course, 1 aSian J. lEg. Educ. 1, 2 (2014).
8 david a. KolB, EXPERiEntial lEaRning: EXPERiEncE aS a SouRcE oF lEaRning and dEvEloPmEnt,
(Prentice- Hall, University of Michigan 1984).
9 Id. at 41.
10 P. W. StEvEnS & a. RichaRdS, changing SchoolS thRough EXPERiEntial Education 2 (ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education
and Small Schools, 1995) (1992).
11 J. a. cantoR, EXPERiEntial lEaRning in highER Education 13 (ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, Washington, DC
1997) (1995).

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