The concept of clinical legal education originates from the Anglo-American legal education. Law Clinics with different focuses are active at US-American universities, but also in Europe. Their goal is to offer legal support for socially disadvantaged persons. At the same time, students acquire deep and practically relevant knowledge in a specialized field of law already during their studies. An educational program teaches them the essential knowledge in refugee and foreign law, a field of law which is not (yet) an obligatory part of German legal studies. Advanced members of a Law Clinic apply their knowledge in practice by giving legal consultations under the supervision of university staff and practitioners.
The clients receive close and personal support by students within a Law Clinic. Often, Refugee Law Clinics are the first point of contact for those who cannot afford professional legal advice. However, Refugee Law Clinics cannot and do not aim to be a replacement for attorney work. The offer of Refugee Law Clinics comprises accompanying clients to public authorities, preparation for the interview during the asylum procedure, conducting country of origin research or referring clients to other appropriate counselling centres.
THE ORIGIN OF THE FEDERAL ASSOCIATION
There are currently about 30 Refugee Law Clinics in Germany that are in different stages of development. In the past few years, we have been working to establish a stronger network between our various locations to make an exchange of experience, knowledge and resources possible.
First orientational meeting in Cologne, under the supervision of the Refugee Law Clinic Cologne
Plans for an “RLC-network” were starting to substantiate during the autumn conference of the Migration Law Network.
In a first network meeting in Cologne common interests and standpoints were verbalized.
With the help of the Migration Law Network, these stances were discussed in greater detail.
The efforts to enhance the networking between Law Clinics finally resulted in the formation of the federal association of the RLCs in Germany.
The origin of the federal association
Legal fairness in dealing with all people.
The RLCs pursue this goal all over Germany. As (law) students, we got up earlier in the morning and went to bed later in the evening to found clubs, organize training and offer advice – for those whose rights are under threat. For whom the rule of law often finds it too convenient to take a close look.
As a union of the RLCs, we measure ourselves against this:
- Are we effectively strengthening the work and projects of the RLCs?
- Are our consultants increasingly better trained?
- Can you help more and more people?
- Do the RLCs have the support from universities, lawyers, authorities and charities that need them?
- Are they adequately represented among national decision-makers?
- Can you make your voice heard in public?
- Do we have all the prerequisites for a responsible, professional way of working?
We want to live up to our claim and our responsibility to help shape civil society and the rule of law, especially through the innovative and solution-oriented approach that the RLCs stand for. That is why we are working hard to bring our pragmatic approach, which is based on the basic values of our constitution, to where the rule of law is particularly challenged.
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.