Two New Law Clinics Make their Case in the Clinical Legal Education Program for Social Justice

Bar-Ilan University’s law clinics program is unique in Israel. While the other universities offer their students the option to enroll in a legal aid clinic, at Bar-Ilan all law students are required to participate in one before graduating. This is due to the University’s ethic of encouraging social responsibility in its students.

 

An indication of the importance BIU places in its law clinics is the fact that it has hired a full-time professor to run the program. “This is my dream job,” enthuses Dr. Shiri Regev-Messalem, BIU’s new Academic Director of the Clinical Legal Education Program for Social Justice. “It combines my interest in academia, research and teaching with my desire to provide legal help to the disadvantaged. Bar-Ilan has invested a lot of resources into these clinics,” she adds.

 

Indeed, this year the Faculty of Law has added two new clinics to its roster, making a total of 10 clinics for some 200 students to choose from, a ratio of 20 students per clinic. While the eight existing clinics concentrate on issues of social concern, the main goal of the two new clinics is to expose law students to the internal legal processes within the Department of Justice and the State Attorney’s Office and to educate future lawyers to be agents of change in the public sector. The objective is to ultimately get future lawyers to impact society on a policy level as well as on a case-by-case basis – in order to truly influence social improvements.

 

The Criminal Justice Prosecution Clinic of the State Attorney’s Office is divided into two parts. The practical clinic takes place in Jerusalem where students go weekly to work with prosecutor and help them prepare their cases. The academic aspects of the course comprise classes held on campus that include joint courses with BIU’s Dr. David Weiner Criminal Law Clinic.

Aimed at developing critical thinking, classes incorporate role-playing in which students assume opposite roles in order to gain understanding and compassion for the other side.

 

The Counseling and Legislation Clinic, headed by Dr. Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov and Dr. Assaf Harel, Advisor to the Attorney General, also involves a weekly visit to Jerusalem where students work with representatives of the Counseling and Legislation Unit at the Ministry of Justice on forming legislation. This is complemented by class work in which the legislative process is explored in depth. The clinic (the only one of its kind offered in Israel) gives students a unique opportunity to see how legislation works from the inside, in addition to the prestige of working with some of the top public lawyers in the country.