Considering a New Rule: When Best Practice is Law Student Practice


  • Stephen A. Rosenbaum


Legal Education, Law Students, Clinical Legal Education, Pakistan Bar Council, Legal Clinics, Legal Aid


The right to legal representation for indigent litigants is established in rules promulgated by the Pakistan Bar Council. Yet, state and non-governmental mechanisms are not necessarily available to implement these rights. The problem has been viewed largely as one of a limited pool of advocates, and the shortage is particularly serious for those accused of crimes and misdemeanours. The access to justice gap is not unique to Pakistan. This article aims to explain how law students can help alleviate the lack of legal aid—whether due to a shortage of affordable lawyers or an underfunded and/or poorly managed legal aid system. Consistent with best legal educational practices, university legal clinics under lawyer supervision and state-sponsored or bar association internship programs are the first steps in ushering in student access to the courtroom; thanks to practical training and allowing limited assistance to low-income clients. An even better step would be to introduce a formal student practice rule whereby students and interns are able to augment the corps of lawyers available to assist litigants who would not otherwise have representation in court. However, opposition by the bar association, judiciary and universities must be taken into account, as well as the means for overcoming this opposition. Beyond the immediate objective for the benefit of the most disadvantaged, Clinical Legal Education (CLE) introduces students to the idea of public service and instils in them an understanding of law, justice, and fairness.