The concept of clinical legal education originated in the Anglo-American legal system in the early 20th century. Today, law clinics are pervasive at universities throughout the US and the UK, and they are becoming more and more popular in continental Europe as well. The idea is simple, yet compelling: Students get involved in different fields of the law and use their knowledge to the benefit of less privileged members of their communities. But they also benefit themselves: From gaining early insight and practical experience in a specialized field of law, but even more from the personal growth connected with taking responsibility and and being able to help others in times of need.
Participants of a Refugee Law Clinic are taught asylum and migration law, fields that are not part of the curriculum of most law faculties in Germany. Advanced members apply their newly acquired skills in walk-in clinics (hence the name) or by advising and assisting a client more closely. All legal advice is given under the supervision of fully trained lawyers.
Our clients receive personal and close support. In many cases, Refugee Law Clinics are the first helpline for people who cannot afford professional legal advice. However, Refugee Law Clinics are not intended to replace expert lawyers, but to complement their work. They focus mainly on taking the time to listen to the clients’ stories, on accompanying clients to their appointments with State authorities, on informing them about the procedures and, if possible, preparing them for their asylum interview, on research (e.g. on the human rights situation in their client’s country of origin), and on referring clients to other helplines, incl. expert lawyers, when appropriate.
THE ORIGIN OF THE FEDERAL ASSOCIATION
There are more than 35 Refugee Law Clinics throughout Germany, and most of them have formed in the years between 2013 and 2016. Very quickly, the establishment of a nationwide network became a priority, in order to share best practices, knowledge and resources.
Under the auspices of the RLC Cologne, a first meeting of German clinicians takes place in Cologne.
Plans for an institutionalized „Refugee Law Clinic Network“ are being developed on the autumn conference of the Network on Migration Law in Stuttgart-Hohenheim.
On a second meeting in Cologne, common interests are being formulated.
Ideas are further developed with the support of the Network on Migration Law, an informal association of migration law experts from academia, civil society and legal practice.
After years of preparation, the Refugee Law Clinics Germany e.V. is formally established.
Our mission statement
Fairness in the Rule of law for all people.
The RLCs pursue this goal all over Germany. As (law) students, we got up early in the morning and went to bed late at night so we could found associations, organise training sessions and offer counselling – for those whose rights are endangered. In cases where it is more convenient for the states to look away.
As an association of RLCs, we measure ourselves against this:
- Do we support the work and projects of the RLCs effectively
- Is the quality of the training the consultants receive increasing?
- Can you help more and more people?
- Do the RLCs receive the support they need from universities, lawyers, authorities, and charitable organizations?
- Are they properly represented on a national level?
- Can they make themselves heard in the public debate?
- Do they have everything they need to work professionally and responsibly?
We want to help shape civil society and the constitutional state through the innovative and solution-oriented approach RLCs are known for.
That is why we are working hard to bring our pragmatic approach, based on the basic values of our constitution, to where the rule of law is challenged.
Our training in law benefits our society the most when we see it as a responsibility and use it where it is most needed.
After all, there is more to life than good grades.
Because our legal training benefits our society above all when we see it as a responsibility and use it where it is urgently needed. There are more than good grades in life.