The UFH Law Clinic was established in 2010 in terms of Rule 19 of the Attorneys Act 53 of 1979 and is registered by the Cape Law Society as a typical attorneys practice. The Law Clinic is run as an independent professional attorney’s practice and is recognised as such by its professional body. The Clinic applies for and receives accreditation and certification annually in terms of Section 1 and 3(1)(f) of the Attorneys Act and Rule 115a of the Rules of the Law Society of the Cape Provinces, and subscribes to and adheres to the same rules applicable to any private attorney.
The Clinic achieves its mission mainly through the delivery of legal services to the indigent, thereby promoting access to justice for them and fostering a commitment in the students to build a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. Practical Law strives to integrate theory and practice within the LLB curriculum by using clinical methodology for teaching students substantive and procedural law and skills.
The Law Clinic further strives to achieve clinical education of final-year LLB students with the emphasis on the development of an ability to think analytically, instilling an awareness of the practical consequences of applying theoretical knowledge, and the delivery of free legal services to needy members of the public in line with the guidelines of the Law Society of South Africa. Each Law Clinic is similar to a private attorney’s practice. Service by students at the Clinic constitutes real legal work, and presents the law student with the opportunity to participate in experiential service learning through dealing directly with live clients and real cases. This is the first primary goal to be achieved by the Clinic. The consequences of the legal decisions taken by the client based on the advice given by the student are real and we pride ourselves on the fact that our students take their work at the Clinic seriously and also start to take an interest in the background and circumstances of their clients.
This type of live training also assists the legal professions in the sense that the student who achieves his or her LLB degree already has some practice-based experience. Without the Law Clinic this would usually only become part of his or her learning environment once been registered as a candidate attorney as required by the Attorney’s Act, Act 53 of 1979. The Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 has come into effect and as such has a significant impact on how clinics are run.
The same applies to our future advocates who also have to serve a period of pupillage under the supervision of an advocate at the Bar after they have obtained their LLB degree. Continuous formative and summative assessment is used in the Clinic purposefully to help the student ultimately develop into the best lawyer that he or she can be.
The second primary goal is based on Section 34 in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, that guarantees everyone access to courts. Access to justice is a national problem for the poor and the indigent and apart from Legal Aid South Africa and various non-governmental organisations, the aw clinics at universities are the last recourse to those who cannot afford to obtain legal representation.
Currently the staff compliment of the Law Clinic is made up of a Director, Deputy Director, a secretary and three candidate attorneys. The Law Clinic’s director offers Clinical Legal Education to the LLB students in their penultimate and final year. The goals of Clinical Legal Education are to conduct a proper consultation with a client; draft letters and communicate effectively with clients, attorneys and other parties; draft civil pleadings in actions and applications; manage a typical attorney's file; examine and cross-examine witnesses and present oral argument; engage with a range of ethical and professional practical considerations; develop self-confidence, and to sensitise students to the plight of the indigent, creating awareness of broader societal issues and their relation to legal problems.
This course offers students their first opportunity of working with real clients and conducting actual litigation under guidance of the attorneys and the director of the UFH Legal Clinic. This is done mainly through the delivery of legal services to the indigent, thereby promoting access to justice for them and fostering a commitment in the students to build a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. Students attend two lectures per week on practical subjects and also conduct ongoing cases on behalf of their clients. In addition, each student participates in a Mock Trial which is based on an actual legal case.
Clinic cases are argued before an actual Magistrate or Attorney. Practical Law strives to integrate theory and practice within the LLB curriculum by using clinical methodology for teaching students substantive and procedural law and skills.
CLE students (ie the LAC Internship) also engages in a variety of community outreach programmes including women’s groups, support groups for people living with HIV, community centres, and other institutions. There, they teach classes that are designed to help people understand and access their legal rights and services. Areas of teaching often include: the rights of persons; criminal law; family law; consumer protection law; land law; housing rights law; HIV/AIDs and the law; healthcare rights; prisoners’ rights; employment and labour law; and basic life and other skills.
The Clinic has several stakeholders. These include the Attorneys Fidelity Fund; Cape Law Society; Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; SAPS; Office of the Attorney; Commission on Gender Equality; Family Advocate's Office; SAULCA; Black Lawyers Association; Legal Aid South Africa, and the East London Magistrate Court. We are constantly seeking to improve this area.
Funding and Professional Assistance
The Law Clinic’s primary source of funding as far as salaries of staff are concerned is the Faculty of Law. Currently the Attorney’s Fidelity Fund also makes a substantial contribution towards the running expenses of the Law Clinic and has committed to doing so from 2008. This contribution is made on condition that the Law Clinic continues to make a satisfactory contribution to free legal services to the community. Quarterly reports are required to be submitted to the Attorney’s Fidelity Fund in this regard.
As far as legal assistance and court cases are concerned, final year LLB students, supervised and assessed by the professional staff of the clinic, attend to consultation with clients, discussing the clients’ legal problems with the attorneys, doing legal research and giving legal advice to clients, opening of files and managing the finances on the file, dealing with housekeeping issues, drafting of letters, court pleadings and motions to court, as well as preparation of court cases in general. All of this is continuously and extensively supervised and corrected by the attorneys on a daily basis. The actual appearances in court have to be done by the attorneys themselves. Since funding for court cases is not available or provided for in the Law Clinic budget, there is always a need for expert legal assistance and the assistance of other experts on a pro bono basis, especially when a case has to be heard by the High Court.
The Clinic is constantly involved with student initiatives. These include the CLASI Project; Student Chapter with the Black Lawyers Association; Law Student Council and Access to Services initiative; SLSJ; Professional Skills and Ethics Mock Trials, and the All African Human Rights Moot Court Competition Development; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; SAPS; Office of the Attorney; Commission on Gender Equality; Family Advocate's Office; SAULCA; Black Lawyers Association; Legal Aid South Africa, and the East London Magistrate Court. This is one of the main areas of the legal clinic and as we continue to grow we hope to incorporate more students and the local communities.