Oh, Oobee Doo, I Wanna be Like You: How influential are Supervisors in Law Clinics?

Clinical legal education requires intense supervision between clinic tutors and their students. This relationship is often different to what students have experienced with other teachers during their higher education, becoming more one-to-one[1] or that of a mentor. Some have commented that, ‘teaching/supervision choices should encourage the law student’s desire to try again, do more and improve their level of lawyering skills.’[2] Whilst there is commentary on how to effectively supervise, or it has been the subject of conferences,[3] there is little empirical data to determine how effective or influential supervision can be on students in law clinics.

Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data collected over an academic year, this paper will highlight how influential clinic tutors can be on their students. Looking at how students’ perceptions of the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for practice changed over the course of an academic year and working closely with their clinical tutor, it will be argued that tutors can have an impact on a student’s perception of practice, even if the student does not completely understand it. Further, it will draw on interview data with clinical tutors in other European clinics and their perceptions of supervision, specifically on proximity of the clinical tutor to the clinic.

[1] Cooke BF and Taylor JP, 'Developing Personal Awareness and Examining Values: Inter-Connected Dimensions of Supervision in Clinical Legal Education.' (1978) 12(2) U Brit Colum L Rev 276, 284

[2] Wortham L, Klein C, and Blaustone B, ‘Autonomy-Mastery-Purpose:Structuring Clinical Courses to Enhance These Critical Educational Goals,’ (2012) 18 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education 105, 133

[13 For example please see, Unger A and Russell A, ‘Clinical Legal Education Conference: Quality & Supervision,’(2017) 24(1) International Journal of Clinical Legal Education 88