Bechmarking Visit To Understudy Operations Of University Based Law Clinics

Following the accreditation of the Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) in the School of Law, by the Law Council to operate a legal aid clinic, a bench marking visit was organised to understudy the operations of University based Law Clinics in selected Universities in south Africa with the objective of learning from their experiences.

PILAC and Law Council visited key university law clinics in South Africa from April 23-28, 2017 to learn best practices in the design and implementation of University Clinics. The Delegation of PILAC was led by the Principal of the School of Law Makerere University Dr. DamalieNaggita-Musoke, the Legal Aid Manager PILAC Ms. Sandra Oryema, the Chairperson Law Council Hon. Justice RemmyKasule and State Attorney Mrs. Naomi Kyampaire.

The visit was organised to enable staff from the Law School and Law Council to learn and appreciate the importance of using law students in University Legal Aid Clinics, to learn best practices for the use of law students in providing legal aid services, to share experiences on how to set up legal Clinics from the South African Universities, to learn best practices in developing the regulatory framework for University Clinics and how to address the challenges faced by University Clinics

The delegation learned several important lessons  key among them being the need to put in place comprehensive regulations to allow university law students to participate in the provision of legal aid services with supervision of advocates; develop comprehensive supervision strategy for the university law students; ensure that only fourth year law students participate in the clinic; put in place standards for the provision of legal aid services by university law clinics; strengthen the collaboration of university law clinics with Uganda Law Society pro bono program.

PILAC strongly believes that the adoption and implementation of these key best practices and strategies will go a long way in improving the teaching of law students and also the provision of legal aid services to the indigent hence building a strong legal profession in Uganda.

The Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) was set up in January 2012, becoming the premier university based law clinic in Uganda.  PILAC was born out of the need to reform the training of law students by incorporating elements in the curriculum that equip students with public interest lawyering skills.  PILAC’s Vision and Mission is to have; A Legal Profession alive to the social justice needs of the vulnerable and to promote social justice through legal education, research, legal aid, public interest litigation and building strong strategic partnership.

In line with the Draft National Legal Aid Policy, PILAC observed that one of the challenges to the provision of the legal aid services in the country was the absence of any tradition of law clinics in the universities in the country. PILACs goal therefore is to have a Legal Aid Clinic purely focused on addressing the justice needs of the indigent communities in Kampala.To achieve these ideals, PILAC started the Community Law Programme and Mobile Law Clinic (CLAPMOC) in 2013. with the objective of enhancing the students’ capacity to understand and apply the law to real life situations through regular interaction with underserved communities and vulnerable groups; To develop the student’s skills in teaching/training, legal referrals and advice and develop the students’ organizational skills; To promote the commitment of students to fulfilling their civic duties and promoting social justice; To bridge the gap between underserved communities and vulnerable groups and the State by promoting legal literacy and understanding of one’s basic rights; and To promote access to justice for the target groups by empowering them with knowledge and skills on how to protect their rights and receive a remedy

The accreditation of PILAC followed an application to Law Council. On 17th November 2015, This was followed by an  inspection of the premises of PILAC making very pertinent observations and a number of recommendations. PILAC took all these recommendations and concerns and addressed them. On 28th July 2016 PILAC was accredited by the Uganda Law Council as a Legal Aid Service Provider.