Bond University


[Extract] This article discusses a research project that investigated the feasibility of introducing provisions granting law students a limited right of audience into the various State and federal statutes in Australia regulating the legal profession and procedure in the courts. The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department under the National Quality Project (NQP) funded the project for Clinical Legal Education. The NQP funded both programs and research in the area of clinical legal education. It had two objectives. These were the improvement of legal education and the extension of legal services to disadvantaged members of the Australian community. The research discussed here grew out of our experience as teachers in university clinical legal education programs and in particular, of Susan Campbell’s experience of her students representing clients in the Victorian Magistrates’ Courts and the Family Court of Australia. Judith Dickson’s experience of student advocacy in the United States in law school clinical programs was an additional catalyst to the research. It also grew out of our understanding of recommendations for education in ethics and professional responsibility made in a series of Reports during the past 10-15 years in Australia. For the purposes of this research, we define clinical legal education as a legal practice-based method of legal education in which law students assume the role of a lawyer and are required to take responsibility under qualified supervision for providing legal services to real clients. Clinical programs in Australia now include not only the community legal centre-based university programs but also field placements or externships in a variety of agencies. Several university law schools in Australia are already conducting informal programs in which students represent their clients in defined circumstances with the leave of the court. Thus, we were able to base the empirical component of the research on interviews conducted with a number of magistrates, judges and practitioners who have already observed at first-hand the process of student and apprentice advocacy.