Not a Blueprint: Reflections on the Cardiff Environmental Law and Policy Clinic


  • Tabea Wilkes Cardiff University
  • Ben Pontin Cardiff University
  • Guy Linley-Adams Cardiff University
  • Julie Price Cardiff University



This article addresses the evolution of environmental clinical legal education at the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff University, with particular reference to the shift in its clinical focus from ‘law’ to ‘policy’. Law and policy are of course deeply intertwined, and the shift under consideration is to be understood neither as abrupt nor comprehensive. It is one of emphasis, which in turn is a reflection of the richness and complexity of the discipline of law within which clinical legal education, like all legal education, operates. The article examines the nature of, and factors shaping, the shift in Clinic emphasis towards law and policy. It addresses some of the practical implications of this for a host of clinical considerations (including resourcing, training and expertise, relationships with clients and management of outputs and impacts in the real world).  It is hoped that this case study will feed into a wider literature around environmental clinical legal education, and the policy dimension in particular.

The Cardiff Clinic is housed in a multi-disciplinary School of Law and Politics, which contains a wider clinical provision beyond the ‘Environment’, including a world-leading Innocence Project. This is the broader institutional context within which the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is situated, and it is with this that our analysis begins in Section 1. We highlight what we call the ‘strategic accident’ and ‘accidental design’ underpinning the School’s clinical provision, as a core dynamic which is carried through in the analysis of the environment-focused Clinic. Section 2 elaborates on the substantive environmental law and policy context within Wales and the UK as a whole, and how this has shaped the increasingly policy-oriented nature of work of the Clinic.  Section 3 critically reflects on the Cardiff experience, drawing in part on feedback the authors have obtained from student participants, as well as the authors’ own perspectives, to evaluate the developments under scrutiny.