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Canadian Legal Education Annual Review

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clinical legal education, regulation of legal education, legal education


Over the past several years, the regulation and accreditation of legal education in most common law jurisdictions is shifting significantly, with greater emphasis on ‘outcomes’ or ‘outputs’. In Canada, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada is entering more boldly into the approval and accreditation of law schools. In Australia, legal regulators are increasingly nationalizing their approach to legal education, and developing new ‘threshold learning outcomes’ for law schools. In the United States, the American Bar Association is shifting to a more outcomes-focused regulatory regime. The result of these accreditation processes is not entirely clear: however, most jurisdictions have set out their respective approaches in later-stage draft form, allowing an initial comparative view. While debate on regulation, accreditation and assessment in all three countries has been vigorous, a notable gap exists in discourse around the role of clinical legal education, particularly in Canada and Australia. This article then explores how clinical education fits either explicitly or implicitly in these accreditation schemes, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of competency/outcome regulation from a clinical legal education perspective. Although there is potential for clinical legal education to be used as a ‘competency boot camp’, weakening the reflective, deep and integrative assessment approach that is the cornerstone of mature, ‘third wave’ clinical legal education, there is also potential for greater commitment to integration of clinical legal education into the law school curriculum more generally. This article then sets out the importance of curricular integration and self-assessment to realize the full potential of not only clinical legal education, but the aspirational vision of lawyering many hope to achieve.