School of Law Holds National Conference on Clinical Legal Education

Addis Ababa University (AAU), School of Law, organized a national conference on Clinical Legal Education (CLE) at Ethiopia Hotel and virtually supported, on the 24th of March 2021.

The Conference aimed at bringing together of law students, law instructors, policy makers and stakeholders to explore opportunities as well as alleviate challenges to seeking improvement on CLE.

Abdi Jibril (PhD), Head for AAU School of Law, stated that CLE has been in the legal curriculum of Ethiopia since 2006 and is being taught in all law schools; it is a course designed to support by practice as law education was based solely on theory.

Although the main purpose of the course is to graduate qualified students, Dr. Abdi mentioned, it is also possible to provide free legal aid to the underprivileged citizens but it is not possible to rely on external support alone unless home grown solution of funding is set.

According to Dr. Abdi, the conference tried to see the dares and the good experiences that Law Schools have had to practice the course, how to share and raise these experiences, how to identify the facing problems and seek solutions.

Though the problems in Law Schools are many in number, as Dr. Abdi stated, the teachers they hire are only theoretical and lack experiences in practicing CLE; lack of funding while students have to move for practice; language barrier, as students have to use local languages during practice while legal education is provided in English; … are the basic ones.

“In order to solve the language problem, the Ministry of Higher Education needs to be consulted and put in place a policy-based solution. For example, one solution may be to take a theoretical course at any university but get a practical course in the area where you grew up,” said Dr. Abdi.

Dr. Abdi mentioned that the participants in the conference were teachers from 34 law schools across the country that are teaching law, and federal offices such as ombudsman, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the courts and the Attorney General.

These offices are basically selected because the students go to them to practice law; the Schools take resources from these offices to identify their experiences and challenges to incorporate them into their curriculum, Dr. Abdi added.

Tom Geraghty, professor at North Western University (NWU) and head for School of Law in Chicago, virtually participated and mentioned this conference is part of a collaborative effort between NWU and AAU in support of CLE in Ethiopia.

According to Prof. Tom Geraghty, the work that the Law Schools doing in Ethiopia is crucial challenging because they are teaching the practical and theoretical skills that would enable their students to become excellent advocates and outstanding providers of legal services.

“CLE places special emphasis and issues of social justice to support the social-justice missions of your universities which are so very important to your country. I am developing clinical teaching skills and methodologies and sharing my experiences here in North Western University with you in Ethiopia,” Prof. Tom Geraghty said.

Two papers were presented and discussions followed in the conference by Murado Abdo (PhD) and Mr. Jetu Edosa on reviewing history and current trends of CLE in Ethiopian law schools and the roles of CLE in enhancing access to justice in Ethiopia: exploring curricular and regulatory issues respectively.

According to the information from the conference organizing team, a two days training continues following the conference.

By: Abraham Girmay

Photo: Andualem Aseffa