Learning by doing
Clinical legal education involves students 'learning by doing'. Students are given the chance to work on real cases and policy issues under the supervision of experienced teachers who are also practising lawyers. Griffith Law School operates eight clinical courses for undergraduate law students, offering them a range of clinical opportunities unique in Australia.
The Griffith Clinical Program works on a partnership model whereby our students undertake all (except one) of the offered courses at external agencies including community legal centres, Legal Aid Queensland, government agencies, courts, private law firms and barristers. The exception is the in-house Innocence Project which operates through a special partnership with Nyst Lawyers.
The program has developed since 1995 to become distinctively diverse. The students involved need to be towards the end of their studies and can choose between 'poverty law' clinics in community legal centres or more specialised clinics including ADR and refugee law. They can also opt for an individual placement in a variety of legal environments through our Semester in Practice course.
Service and learning
The Griffith clinical program is designed to give students a chance to engage with the community in the course of their law studies. Students relish the opportunity to apply their skills in ways that assist people in relation to real legal problems. The emphasis on 'people law' rather than 'paper law' is also welcomed by many students.
Griffith Law School has developed a special relationship with Caxton Legal Centre, a flagship community legal centre in Queensland, since the establishment of our first joint clinic in 1995. The Law School benefits greatly from its links with Caxton and other community legal centres in terms of better understanding the legal issues impacting on communities.
The undergraduate courses are:
- Advanced Family Law – Clinic
Offered in conjunction with Caxton Legal Centre with financial support from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.
- The Innocence Project
Offered twice each year in conjunction with Nyst Lawyers.
- Legal Clinic
Offered each year with Caxton Legal Centre.
- Social Justice Lawyering
Offered each year in conjunction with LawRight.
- Refugee Law & Policy Clinic
Offered twice each year in conjunction with the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service.
- Trimester in Practice
Offered each year, this externship program provides placement opportunities with a diverse group of law-related workplaces.
- Street Law
A course which sees students work with local secondary schools to develop and deliver interactive presentations on issues of particular interest to students. Held in conjunction with the Pine Rivers Community Legal Centre.
The Griffith clinical courses have a number of common objectives:
- to provide a practice-based experience designed to encourage students to take responsibility for their work and to think reflectively;
- to develop students’ critical understanding of the legal system and the roles of lawyers within that system;
- to develop and refine legal skills considered elsewhere in the Griffith law program, complementing the range of courses and teaching methods used in the Griffith law program.
You should read the course study information for the following clinics: Degree and Career Finder
Advanced Family Law – Clinic
Griffith Law School operates this course in partnership with Caxton Legal Centre since 1999 with funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. Participating students spend a day per week for a semester at Caxton Legal Centre and provide advice to clients about family law. They are supervised by Griffith staff, together with experienced family lawyers from Caxton. It may be early advice to a person thinking about separation or assisting in the preparation of court documents in on-going litigation for a self-representing litigant. Students must have completed the classroom-based Family Law course before they can participate in this clinic.
There is an introductory seminar at the commencement of the course, followed by a series of student-led seminars. They provide an opportunity to reflect on what they are learning about lawyering, clients (particularly those using a community legal centre), the legal system and family law in particular.
The Innocence Project is committed to freeing innocent persons who have been wrongly convicted. Students, acting under the supervision of the Director and Convenor of the Project, and on instructions from the associated lawyers, will review cases where a person is claiming to be innocent but convicted. Students may also undertake research activities associated with the case review. All professional case-management decisions are the responsibility of the lawyers involved.
- For more information: Innocence Project
This course involves students working at Caxton Legal Centre one day per week. It was established in 1995. They interview and advise clients on a wide range of legal matters as well as preparing letters, court documents and other legal documents. Issues regularly arising include consumer protection, minor crime and traffic offences, neighbourhood disputes, family law, tenancy problems and debt. The course includes a short appearance in open court in the final week of semester.
After an introductory small group, students participate in a series of seminars in which legal aid service delivery, ethical issues and lawyering skills are explored through student-led presentations.
Social Justice Lawyering
Since 2002, this clinic formerly known as the Public Interest Lawyering clinic has enabled students to complete a placement with the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House, now known as LawRight. Griffith Law School was involved in the establishment of LawRight formerly known as QPILCH, along with major law firms, Legal Aid Queensland, the Queensland Law Society and Queensland Bar Association. Students are supervised in their work by a LawRight staff member.
Students are involved in the process of assessing applications for assistance received by LawRight. They gather and consider materials then prepare recommendations for LawRight staff in relation to these applications. Students are also involved in group work on public interest law projects being conducted by LawRight and member law firms and a series of seminars dealing with the practice of public interest law and pro bono delivery of legal services.
Refugee Law and Policy Clinic
This course involves students in placements at the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service. The students work with lawyers and migration agents in the conduct of legal work for people pursuing refugee status and family reunion claims. They also undertake follow-up work during semester on claims and applications as selected by RAILS. This includes research, gathering and collating of evidence, submission writing and client advocacy. Students are also involved in group work on refugee law projects as identified by RAILS.
Trimester in Practice
Since 1998, this course has placed students one day per week in a variety of workplaces suited to their particular learning objectives. Sites include law firms, barristers’ chambers, community legal centres, industrial relations consultants, consumer rights regulators and government departments. Students can usually choose a placement of significant interest to them – eg Prisoner’s Legal Service, a criminal law barrister, a boutique family law firm. Students work closely with a designated host organisation supervisor. Supervisors and students receive placement manuals dealing with issues related to making the placements as productive as possible for all concerned.
The course includes a seminar series designed to compare and contrast the nature of the different host organisations with a view to considering the work lawyers do through readings and discussions. Placements are offered at both Brisbane and the Gold Coast and the convenors work together in the development of materials and course design. There is close liaison between the Griffith Law School academic staff and the placement supervisor including an on-site visit and regular telephone communication.
A course which sees students work with local secondary schools to develop and deliver interactive presentations on issues of particular interest to students. Offered each year in conjunction with Gold Coast and Brisbane schools and the Pine Rivers Community Legal Service.