Measuring the Impact of Clinic Participation on Law Graduates: A Small Case Study


  • Larry Donnelly National University of Ireland, Galway



In an academic environment where there is an increasing emphasis on impact, it is rather surprising that there is a paucity of studies on the effect (if any) of participation in a clinical legal education programme on the career trajectory of law graduates. In this article, after considering the methodologies behind and outcomes of two such studies conducted in North America, the author describes how he devised a survey, which was sent to a group of law students at the University of Galway’s externship-based clinical programme it its pilot year, and analyses the responses. In short, this study – like the other two – suggests that clinic participation has a marked impact on lawyers in terms of enhancing practical legal skills, but a less significant impact when it comes to inspiring graduates to embark upon public interest-oriented legal careers or undertake pro bono work. The article acknowledges that there are myriad factors influencing these choices and that it is foolish to extrapolate excessively from these studies. It concludes by arguing that, no matter these “failings” with respect to the social justice imperative that helps define clinical legal education, the capacity of programmes to equip future lawyers with key skills and to instil in them, at the very least, a cognisance of the shortcomings of the law and legal system means that our work is still eminently worthwhile.

Author Biography

Larry Donnelly, National University of Ireland, Galway

B.A., J.D. Attorney at Law (Massachusetts). Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Legal Education, School of Law, University of Galway.






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