Catching up with the emphasis on experiential learning in medical education and inspired by the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, many U.S. law schools offer clinical courses: the opportunity to handle live-client cases under educational supervision. In the past few decades, U.S. law schools have developed clinical pedagogy and invested in creating hundreds of clinics. Today, thousands of law students have the opportunity to develop critical lawyering skills while serving indigent clients under student practice rules in every part of the country. Villanova’s clinical program is at the heart of the Law School’s Augustinian Catholic mission.
Legal education in other parts of the world began following this example in earnest in the 1990s. Villanova Law Professor Beth Lyon has been involved in this process as a trainer, consultant, and demonstration teacher in India, Hungary, China, and Nicaragua. Recently, Professor Lyon was selected by the International Senior Lawyers Project to serve on a team of two professors consulting with a coalition in Bolivia that is developing Bolivia’s first clinic. The partners in the project are Bolivia’s top law school, the Universidad Católica Boliviana, along with la Universidad Salesiana de Bolivia, and the Red de Profesionales Abogados en Derechos Humanos, which is a network of pro bono lawyers working with the Institución Capacitación y Derechos Ciudadanos (CDC), the principal legal services provider in La Paz.
In October, Professor Lyon and her co-trainer, a clinical professor from Cornell Law School, traveled to La Paz for a week to facilitate trainings for faculty and staff of the two law schools and the CDC on legal education reform and clinical legal education pedagogy. Professor Lyon’s presentations included Establishing Objectives for Legal Education, Description of the Villanova Law School Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic, Designing a Clinical Course, and Pedagogy for Skills Teaching (English translation of titles).
Professor Lyon also lectured on the clinical legal education movement to students of la Universidad Católica Boliviana and La Universidad Salesiana de Bolivia and is working to match Bolivia’s first clinical students with Villanova Law clinical students to share experiences.
Professor Lyon is continuing to assist the Bolivian partners with developing their lawyering skills seminar, and is seeking funding to bring them to visit clinics in the United States. She is also preparing an application to seek a Fulbright fellowship to return to La Paz to assist as a co-teacher and international human rights litigation supervisor in the new clinic, and to research access to justice for language minorities. Bolivia is one of only two countries in the Americas that is majority indigenous, and has thirty-seven official languages. Article One of the Bolivian Constitution of 2009 states, “Bolivia is constituted as a Unitary Social State of Plurinational, Community-Based Law, free, independent, sovereign, democratic, intercultural, decentralized, and with autonomies. Bolivia is founded in plurality and political, economic, juridical, cultural, and linguistic pluralism within the integrating process of the country.”
To learn more about Villanova University School of Law clinical programs, click here.