The Clinic Effect

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Long title: 
The Clinic Effect: Ethical Professional Identity Formation in Law Students
Newman, JoNel
Nicolson, Donald
Swain, Melissa
Author(s)' contact information: 
Professor JoNel Newman Director, Health Rights Clinic University of Miami School of Law 1311 Miller Drive Coral Gables, FL 33146 305-284-4125
Donald Nicolson Professor of Law and Director of Law Clinic School of Law, University of Strathclyde Room 734 Graham Hills Building, George Street G1 1QS Glasgow 0141 548 3978
Melissa Swain Associate Director, Health Rights Clinic University of Miami School of Law 1311 Miller Drive Coral Gables, FL 33146 305-284-1539
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The authors are directors of two law school clinics - one in Miami, Florida and one in Glasgow, Scotland - in which law students provide legal services to vulnerable and/or underserved populations. We undertook an analysis of the self-reflection narrative materials created by our clinical students over the course of an extended period of clinical involvement (two academic semesters in the case of the Miami students and three in the case of the Strathclyde students). We reviewed the materials for evidence of what many have postulated as the “clinic effect,” namely, that the students’ clinical experiences had a profound impact on their development of a professional identity which extends to a commitment to upholding high moral standards and to enhancing access to justice for the underserved.
We will show that there is mounting evidence that at least clinics oriented towards social justice can have the purported clinic effect. At the same time we will show that the extent of a development of ethical awareness depends on clinical experience being tied to teaching and reflection.
We begin with a brief outline of the theoretical claims for the value of ethical development through clinical experience. We then explain our particular goals for inculcating ethical professional identity in our students before turning to a description of our two clinics, the self-reflection materials prepared by students in each and the methodology used to analyse the diaries. This leads to the presentation of evidence from our analysis for the conclusion that our clinics at least are having an impact on student attitudes which may well lead to the development of ethical and altruistic professional identity, and our own reflections and lessons learned from this experience.

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