Legal Clinic as a Tool to Resolve Problems in Society and Education

«Modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.»

Erich Fromm


It is quite paradoxical to have a fear of freedom. We are ready to fight for our rights to the last. World history and repeated uprisings against oppressive governments are prooves of this. But on the other hand, world history demonstrates many examples of the formation of authoritarian and tyrannic regimes. Sometimes, it is still convenient for us to obey others in order not to feel responsible for our actions. As a result, do not feel fear of negative consequences. Yes, freedom is not only the pros but also cons. Perhaps that is why society is frightened by anarchy as a radical manifestation of freedom. But tyranny terrifies us too. At the very least, we want the tyrant to be gentle with us and know what we long to better than us.

The idea of longing for freedom and fear of it better be left to philosophers and psychologists. To some extent, we, as a species, are trying to overcome this problem. The institute of law is just one of the ways to solve the problem. Yes, the first way to settle existential dilemmas was religion and customs associated with the culture of a particular folk. But the laws in ancient times followed by these beliefs. It is sufficient to mention Moses with the Ten Commandments only. If you look at the mythology of different peoples of the world, you can find many similar stories. People are often too weak to believe only in themselves. That is why we are looking for something bigger than ourselves.

In the pursuit of truth, humanity killed God, according to Mr. Friedrich Nietzsche. In any case, religion and customs have receded into the background. The cultural code starts to take a position under the pressure of globalization. That is where the most breathtaking confrontation between anarchy and totalitarianism begins. In any case, the last century has been a massacre, to put it mildly. As species, we still need a division of rights and responsibilities, a system of instructions and prohibitions to stay within a civilization. Of course also, to be confident in the future, security and fair treatment of ourselves.


Therefore, yes, laws can help solve the age-old problem of society. On the one hand, competent legislation can automatically protect us from anarchy, but on the other, – a guarantee against tyranny appears. The law should not only serve as a guide for ordinary people but also be a system of deterrence and restriction of power. These ideas sound pretty good. Yes, we can conclude that lawyers are modern priests. But let us be more realistic. Professional legal activity is not so connected with spirituality and morality in general. The ideas of legal enlightenment and the laws on which society stands are not among the topics of average person interests. You can, of course, criticize society. Only ordinary people find it too difficult to navigate the law without specialized education, regardless of the level of their intellectual skills and educational level. Help from more competent people will not hurt here.

Legal Clinics

At this stage, it is a time to introduce the institute of legal clinics – a center where legal practice takes place, and a free legal aid provided to the low-income categories. In theory, this is where you can get the necessary “treatment” for injustice. Plus, this is one of the tools of the legal education of the population. To understand its role in social development, we should closely look at the history of legal clinics and what goals it pursues.


We can say that it all started with Professor Georg Frommhold, with his article in the German Legal Gazette entitled “Juristische Kliniken” in 1900. In the publication, he compared the practice of medicine and law students. He realized that law students lag behind doctors because others have the so-called “live practice” in clinics at educational institutions. At the same time, law students were considering fictional cases. Therefore, Georg Frommhold decided that the practice of combining education with the provision of direct medical care to patients should be projected to jurisprudence. In this case, the legal theorist will be able to communicate directly with a person in need of legal assistance. That is, even during the study, the student would deal with the direct “legal pathology”, and the introduction of legal clinics would help solve the problem of providing free legal aid to the poor. Frommhold also expressed several ideas regarding the organization of legal clinics:

  1. Professional requirements for heads of legal clinics and their moral qualities, who must be highly educated and qualified specialists with a solid background of theoretical knowledge in the field of private and public law and administration, as well as to be able to understand the problems of low-income people, show patience and work with full efficiency.
  2. Impossibility to combine the management of a legal clinic with other activities, the fulfillment of academic and teaching obligations, legal practice as a judge or lawyer, as it will already have to perform a considerable amount of work.
  3. Observance of confidentiality in resolving legal cases and the obligation for students to attend a law clinic with a preliminary legal exam.
  4. At the initial stage, the need to limit the number of active participants (consultants) with an unlimited number of students, further involvement of young assistants as curators to support the activities of the head of legal clinics.
  5. A priority of acquisition of knowledge at conducting business within the legal clinic and in the absence of the established terms of its decision by students-clinicians. Because it is important not to complete the legal case sooner, but to study and analyze it more carefully.
  6. The need to use the experience gained during practical work in a legal clinic to overcome difficulties in organizing the educational process.

These ideas may seem naive and somewhat outdated in some places, but despite this, they do not lose their relevance to this day. Of course, Frommhold was not the first to come up with the idea. For example, Adolf Stolzel regularly used the simulation of fictitious cases during his studies. Also at the Fourth Congress of German Lawyers in 1863, Karl-Volkmar Stoy proposed the establishment of clinics at law faculties, which were to concentrate “samples of legal acts and visual images of subjects dealing with legal concepts. “Therefore, we can conclude that the idea was not new and was repeatedly voiced. However, no one has been in a hurry to implement these ideas yet. In 1933, the American lawyer Jerome Frank raised this issue again in his article “Why not create a clinic for lawyers?” for the University of Pennsylvania Periodicals Review of Legal Issues. In any case, legal clinics received their full development around the world in the 60s of the last century. According to skeptics, they have not yet received their development.

Legal Clinics in Ukraine

The first legal clinic in Ukraine was founded in 1995. In this respect, we are still quite a young and naive country. Perhaps that is why at the legislative level legal clinics and its activities were enshrined in 2006 by the Decree № 592 “On approval of Typical instruction on a legal clinic of higher educational institution of Ukraine”. According to the Decree:

  1. A legal Clinic is a structural unit of a higher educational institution of III-IV levels of accreditation, which trains specialists in the field of Law and is meant as a basis for practical training and training of senior students.
  2. In its activity, the legal clinic is guided by the legislation of Ukraine, the Charter of the higher educational institution, and the Regulations about it, approved by the head of the educational institution.
  3. The legal clinic is not a legal entity.
  4. The legal clinic, as a structural unit, may have the appropriate stamps and forms with its name. Thus, senior students have access to practice in the clinic, but it is not known exactly which courses can be considered senior. As this understanding is quite blurred. Some may consider a bachelor’s degree to be incomplete higher education. In short, everything is quite subjective here. There are no claims to the other listed points. More important in this order is the purpose and objectives of legal clinics:

The goals of the legal clinic are:

 raising the level of practical knowledge, skills, and abilities of law students;

 ensuring access of representatives of socially vulnerable groups to legal aid;

 formation of the legal culture of citizens;

 training and educating students in the spirit of observance and respect for the principles of the rule of law, justice, and human dignity;

 expanding cooperation of higher education institutions that train legal professionals with the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, justice, public authorities, and local governments, with other institutions and organizations;

 introduction into the educational process of elements of practical training of law students in the field of legal services.The main tasks of the legal clinic:

 providing students of a legal clinic with the opportunity to acquire practical skills in the specialty;

 creation of places for students to undergo training and industrial practice;

 providing free legal aid to citizens of socially vulnerable segments of society;

 carrying out measures on legal education of the population;

 providing opportunities for students to communicate during the educational process with practitioners of judicial and law enforcement agencies, other state bodies and local governments on their activities;

 creation of an effective mechanism for the exchange of information between the population, the media, and the legal clinic, which will allow us to respond quickly to the practical needs of citizens.

If we reduce all these points to one phrase, we get: “a combination of pleasant and useful.” And it would seem that everything is simple – students get an internship and a springboard to a good professional future. At the same time, clients receive free legal aid. However, in reality, everything is a bit more complicated because to implement all the points, a higher education institution must have the necessary resource. First of all, there should be well-established interaction with the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, state authorities and local governments, and other institutions and organizations. To improve the quality of the clinic and, in the future, the passage of students and internships or employment. Unfortunately, not every school has such an extensive network of connections. If we talk about interaction with the private sector, the situation is even more complicated. Often companies do not want to cooperate with higher education institutions due to the common belief that it is a state institution, and therefore quite clumsy and financially unreliable. To some extent, business representatives can be understood. As a result of communication between students and practitioners of judicial and law enforcement agencies, other government agencies, and local governments on their activities begins to be questioned. From this follows the quality of service. Since you need to know the law, you need to know how it is implemented in practice. And situations can sometimes be unusual and you need to be prepared for them. It is good if these students have the support of teachers who can advise how to do better, but sometimes this may not be enough. There may also be difficulties with effective mechanisms for exchanging information between the public and the legal clinic. Yes, it’s not a problem to set up a feedback system. There are a thousand and one ways to do this. The question is how to make it clear to people that here they receive real help and it is better to call a legal clinic. This issue is important in our country, where the level of trust in law enforcement does not exceed 2.3%. We are still far from the rule of law.

That is where the average citizen knows their rights and responsibilities at least to a minimum. At least we have room to grow but the problem does not disappear. Also, people may be afraid to consult with students who they think do not yet know. In principle, this problem can be solved by the quality of service provision and the use of modern technologies. Quite possible that the same students can become customers. To some extent, they can also be an unprotected group. It may be necessary to use an entrepreneurial approach to develop legal clinics. Yes, it is a university unit that will not profit. But it is not a matter of the materialism of great and terrible capitalism. We are talking more about the pragmatism of the good old capitalism. Therefore, it is worth focusing on the shortcomings and potential threats, and then understand how to use them to your advantage…



Legal Clinic as a Tool to Resolve Problems in Society and Education