Pro Bono and Clinical Work in Law Schools: Summary and Analysis

AuthorRebecca Parker,Frank Dignan,Richard Grimes
Date01 January 2017
Published date01 January 2017
Subject MatterArticles
Pro Bono and Clinical Work in Law
Schools: Summary and Analysis
Frank Dignan1
Richard Grimes2
Rebecca Parker3
This article describes the results and implications of a survey carried completed in 2014 and looking
at the nature and extent of pro bono and clinical work in UK law schools. The survey is one of an
ongoing series conducted every 2–3 years on behalf of the influential NGO, LawWorks (The Solicitors
Pro Bono Group). The findings of this, the most recent survey, shows clearly that more law schools
than ever are engaged in pro bono and clinical initiatives – a trend that has been increasingly evident
over the past 15 years. To date over 70% of UK-based law schools have clinics. Not only is it the rule
rather than the exception to do so but the numbers and scope of clinics in law schools that participate
have grown considerably. These developments were reported to an international conference in 2015
(GAJE, Turkey) and delegates there concluded that such a survey would have global appeal and that
work should now be carried out with a view to implementing such an initiative. This would have the
potential to encourage the growth of pro bono work and might influence policy beyond law schools
amongst government and the legal profession – leading to improved levels of legal education and
increased access to justice.
More law schools than ever are getting engaged in the provision of legal services to the public.4
The impetus behind this may include the rise in legal needs that remain unfullled, the consumerization
of legal education, the employability (or otherwise) of graduates entering a competitive job market and,
possibly, an increasing recognition that effective learning requires an active engagement by students in
the educational process.
1 Coordinator, Clinical Legal Education, Law School, University of Hull, UK.
2 Independent legal education consultant, UK.
3 Solicitor Tutor, Northumbria Law School, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK.
4 The surveys were carried out by the Solicitors Pro Bono Group (now known as LawWorks) in 2000, 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2014.
Asian Journal of Legal Education
4(1) 1–16
© 2017 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2322005816662392
Corresponding author:
Richard Grimes, Independent legal education consultant, UK.
2 Asian Journal of Legal Education 4(1)
Much has been written elsewhere on these topics,5 and we do not intend to go into the merits of the
arguments here. Rather, we note, using several corroborative sources, that more law schools than ever,
on a global scale, are running pro bono and clinical initiatives.6 We wish to take this as the premise and
analyze the nature, extent and implications of it.
We take, as our starting point, a survey that was completed in 2014. The report is the most extensive
one, to date, and maps the development, manifestation and range of pro bono activities in UK-based law
schools. We suggest that this, whilst a picture of just one small and particular set of jurisdictions, is
indicative of what is happening worldwide and that certain inferences can be drawn as a result. Whilst
much of this article is focused on developments in the UK, we believe that there are important lessons to
be learnt in an international context.
First, we look at the 2014 survey findings to give context and form to the discussion. Second, we look
at the role of LawWorks, a UK-based non-governmental organization (NGO), and the potential of other
NGOs to contribute to the development of pro bono clinics of law schools. We then briefly compare this
with the bigger picture across the globe. Finally, we take a summary of the feedback received from a
widely representative international conference that discussed the survey’s findings, analyze it and draw
The 2014 Survey
First, this article looks at the results of a survey of UK law schools carried out on behalf of an NGO
named LawWorks.7 The survey is now an established part of LawWorks’s engagement with law schools
and students.
The survey was dispatched in late 2013 and the responses were received and analyzed in early 2014.
The survey covered all existing law schools in the UK and Northern Ireland.8
The questions asked related to involvement in, what might be broadly described as, ‘pro bono
activities’ and ‘clinical legal education’, and to former, current and planned involvement. The scope and
range of the work undertaken and operational factors (both intrinsic and extrinsic) influencing the work
were also explored and have been commented further.9
See, e.g., Steve HyneS, tHe JuStice Gap: WHatever Happened to LeGaL aid? (LAG, 2009); Stanley Burton et al., Justice in an
Age of Austerity (Justice, 2014)—unmet legal needs; Eliza Anyangwe, Are Students the Consumers of Higher Education?
tHe Guardian, 14 December 2011, available at
isation-best-bits (last visited 16 March 2016)—consumerization of legal education; Liv Anne Storen & Per Olaf Aamodt, The
Quality of Higher Education and Employability of Graduates,16(3) QuaLity in HiGHer education 297(2010)—employability of
graduates; Experiential Learning (Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center), available
at (last visited 16 March 2016)—active
6 The global clinical scene (as it existed in 2010) is well documented in Frank Bloch (ed.), tHe GLobaL cLinicaL MoveMent:
educatinG LaWyerS for SociaL JuStice (Oxford University Press, 2010).
7 The survey is published as: D. Carney, F. Dignan, R. Grimes, G. Kelly & R. Parker, The LawWorks Law School Pro Bono and
Clinic Report (LexisNexis, 2014), available at (last visited
12 November 2015)—membership is required to access this but it is free to students on application. Further details on law school
activity (by institution) in the public domain can also be found at (last visited 25 November 2015).
LawWorks is now the ‘trading name’ of the Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG).
8 This was the fifth survey for English and Welsh law schools as noted above. It was only the second time that Scottish and
Northern Irish schools had been included.
9 The range of questions was significantly more extensive in the 2014 survey than those on previous occasions.

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