The “PILnet Project” on the Human Capital of the European Clinical Legal Education Movement

Partners: European Network for Clinical Legal Education (ENCLE)

Client: PILnet

Project aims: In collaboration with PILnet and ENCLE the LiA research team will conduct an in-depth study into the role of human capital in the long-term success of clinical legal education projects in Europe.

Overview: In the mid-1990s (and through to the early 2000s) a Clinical Legal Education (“CLE”) movement took place in Europe. However, the movement was exclusively confined to Central and Eastern Europe, where not only the Ford Foundation, but various other US donor organizations including the Open Society Institute (through the Constitutional Law and Policy Institute (COLPI)), the American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (CEELI), USAID, the German Marshall Fund, the MacArthur Foundation invested significant resources into the establishment of legal clinics in the region. COLPI and the Ford Foundation funded Columbia University Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI), helped to set up over 75 law school clinical programs in several Central and Eastern European countries, while CEELI helped to establish over 100 law school clinics in Russia. As funding for CLE in Central and Eastern Europe declined in the mid-2000s, many of these law school clinics have ultimately proved to be unsuccessful or unsustainable over the long term (particularly in Russia). However, there are a few success stories, for instance Poland, where clinical legal education is now institutionalized in much the same way as it is in the US and a national funding organization has even been established (Fundacja Uniwersyteckich Poradni Prawnych). Meanwhile, perhaps commencing in 2005 with the founding of the Penitentiary Clinic at Rovira i Virgili University’s School of Law at Tarragona, Spain, CLE has finally reached Western (continental) Europe. We are presently witnessing a CLE boom in Western Europe. In spite of persistent claims that CLE is incompatible with, or rendered redundant by civil law legal systems, Western European universities are turning to CLE at an astonishing pace. A recent Open Society Justice Initiative survey suggests that there are 32 clinics in Germany alone (at separate universities), five in France, four in the Netherlands, four in Ireland, three in Spain and 21 in the United Kingdom. Considering that just ten or even five years ago these figures (certainly in continental Europe) would have been at zero, this is a significant increase.

What is clear from the scant literature is that human capital plays a key role in the long-term success CLE projects. The LiA Project team have identified several individuals who might be described as pioneers of CLE and examples of success-stories (in both Eastern and Western Europe) and will conduct in-depth interviews with them. The team plan to carry out around 60-80 interviews all in all. The team is interested in trying to identify a common narrative of success for European legal clinics in terms of human capital.