Clinical Legal Education on the Move in Canada

The Place of Clinical Legal Education was the theme of the 6th annual conference of the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE), held at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law from October 22-24.

The conference keynote was by author and playwright Maria Campbell on the place of clinics in reconciliation. Some of the topics covered at the conference were:

  • Beyond Cultural Competence: the Place of Decolonialization in Clinics
  • Leveraging Law School: Breaking Down Silos to Enhance Access to Justice
  • Community Lawyering and Teaching Clinics
  • The Internet as a Site for Clinical Legal Education: Using Online Dispute Resolution as a Tool for Student Learning
  • Friend or Foe: Bridging the Gap Between the Profession and Academy to Strengthen Legal Education
  • Strategizing for the Future of Clinical Legal Education
  • Creating a Collaborative Policy-Making Course on Access to Justice
  • Clinical Legal Education and Professional Identity Formation: Reflections from an Empirical Study
  • The Place of Systemic Advocacy in Clinical Legal Education

Of special interest for me was “How to Be the World’s Best Law Professor,” presented by Willamette University clinic director Warren Binford. The Fulbright Canada-Norlien Foundation Distinguished Visiting Chair at the University of Calgary, she presented (in a Jeopardy game format) the latest research on the best teaching methods in legal education. Her article in the Journal of Legal Education can be found here.

The reason I have listed so many topics from the conference is to show the diversity of topics, the thoughtfulness given to clinical legal education, and the body of research being created in Canada.

The first national conference on clinical legal education was held at Western University in 2010. ACCLE was created at that conference, and since then its annual conference has been held at law schools across Canada.

The purpose behind the creation of ACCLE was to bring together clinicians, faculty members, and students from across Canada to talk about common issues, best practices, and sharing research. That is exactly what has happened. Collaboration is taking root among law schools from different areas of the country, innovative research is being undertaken, and new ideas are being shared.

Next year will see another leap forward as ACCLE will host one of the largest ever international gatherings of student legal clinics in Toronto July 10-12, 2016 when it holds its conference concurrently with the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education. More on IJCLE can be found here. The 2015 conference was held in Turkey; the 2016 conference will be the first IJCLE conference held in North America.

The theme for the 2016 conference will be “The Risks and Rewards of Clinic.” This international conference will be a rare opportunity to meet clinicians from around the world. Mark it on your calendar! For more details, in the coming months watch ACCLE’s website at The deadline for submitting proposals has been extended to December 1, 2015.

There are great opportunities ahead for research in experiential legal education in general, and clinical legal education in particular. Here’s hoping more law faculty members and clinicians take up the challenge in the ongoing movement to innovate in Canadian legal education.

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