Transcending tolerance through Clinical Legal Education (CLE) with law students and faculty across Viet Nam

Year: 2012

Author: Walsh, Christopher S, Lasky, Bruce, Morrish, Wendy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Clinical legal education (CLE) programmes are relatively new in South East Asia and previously non-existent in Viet Nam. CLE increases law students' understanding of the need for, and critical skills to provide access to justice to vulnerable and marginalised communities. We present Bridges Across Borders South East Asia Community Legal Education Initiative's  (BABSEA CLE) model that introduced university-based CLE programmes across Viet Nam. We illustrate how the project's ideology and andragogy work to disrupt labeling common in law practices to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures and backgrounds. Our work draws on the fields of multicultural lawyering (Tremblay and Weng, 2007) and education (Nieto, 1992; 2000; 2004) to bring about praxis (Freire, 1970). Our model encourages law students and faculty to cultivate a multicultural perspective by reflecting on what they learn and putting their learning into action through university and community-based teaching.  Quantitative and qualitative findings from a nation-wide research project illustrate how participation in CLE programmes helps law students and faculty move beyond tolerance towards standing in solidarity with those who are 'othered'. We argue the model assists law students and faculty in understanding why CLE is needed for indigent and marginalised communities with the intention of encouraging them to provide pro-bono legal services in the future, thereby transforming lawyering practices to embrace equity, participation and inclusion. CLE teaching and learning practices are timely and transferable in South East Asia because they provide all students with access to a new set of dispositions, beliefs, and commitments that are grounded in equity and social justice.