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Statement from Principal School of Law, & PILAC Coordinator

 

For the past 9 years, legal education taught at the School of Law, Makerere University has experienced tremendous changes. Traditionally, legal education was designed following the common law system, largely preparing law graduates for commercial legal practice. The effect of this was that while the number of law graduates was increasing, lawyers available to serve in non-commercial sectors were not increasing correspondingly. The mentality many law graduates held was that the profession was about making money. Most affected by this were indigent persons who could not afford to access legal services on a commercial basis. This greatly compromised access to justice and left many victims of injustice without relief.

In 2012, the School decided to start implementing major reforms in the way lawyers are trained. This was aime at ensuring that the School passes out lawyers with the skills and interest to serve the justice needs of the indigent and vulnerable persons of society. This was to be achieved by changing the way law students are taught. Key changes included embracing the clinical methodology of teaching, a more practical approach that exposes learners to real life problems.

The School also established the Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) with a mandate to roll out the clinical methodology, by implementing the Community Law Programme and Mobile Law Clinic (CLAPMOC) to provide legal services through a walk-in legal aid clinic, do research on various topics relevant to access to justice, and going out to the communities, and prisons to promote legal
literacy and provide on-spot legal counselling. The research papers the School has produced have informed public policy, law reform and legal education.

Later, PILAC championed the establishment of the Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NETPIL), a forum that brings together lawyers committed to public interest lawyering.

The above has been made possible through the support of various development partners since the mainstream budget of the School cannot support these activities. The Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) has been key in this regard. DGF has funded the School since October 2012, supporting staff, activities, and institutional costs. In addition, DGF has been key in building the capacity of the School, through PILAC, in project management and developing the requisite policies. This is in addition to building the capacity of staff.

The activities of the School as described above have spread to other law schools in Uganda and the East African region. This has been realised through the East African Network of University Law Clinics (EANULAC), which was established by the School in 2015. EANULAC is slowly transforming legal education in the region by encouraging and supporting other law schools to establish clinics and clinical programmes.