Law school initiative that benefits students and the public at one go
JUDY NGURU-WALLA, lecturer and Coordinator, Public Legal Clinics at Mount Kenya University’s Parklands Law Campus sheds light on the institution’s free legal aid service. Excerpts:
Q. What do the Public Legal Clinics by the School of Law entail and when was this initiative started?
Since 2015, the SoL has organised Public Legal Clinics where law students offer free legal aid services to citizens of Kenya. The free Public Legal Clinics offer a chance for the public to meet with qualified law students and lecturers who then provide valuable legal advice and assistance.
The rationale behind the initiative is that disfranchised and vulnerable groups face great challenges in accessing justice – and they are many throughout the country. As such, our Public Legal Clinics help fill that gap by providing free legal aid to these groups in the hope that they, too, can access quality legal services to protect their human rights.
So far, we have carried out Public Legal Clinics in Kibra, Dagoretti, Embakasi South, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Thika, Langata Women’s Prison and Nairobi Remand and Allocation Maximum Prison.
Q. How do students benefit from the clinics?
The Public Legal Clinics offer law students the opportunity to sharpen essential practical skills and values, such as client counselling, critical thinking, legal research, legal analysis and professional responsibility. The clinics also offer the students a chance to gain practical experience while delivering much needed legal services as they come in contact with real clients. Simply put, these clinics offer the law student a moving picture of the current law practice.
Q. When did you conduct the last one and where? How many people benefited?
The last Public Legal Clinic was conducted at the Nairobi Remand and Allocation Maximum Prison in May 2018, where about 100 people in remand were given legal advice on their criminal cases by law students.
Q. When is the next clinic and how many people will it reach?
We are planning to return back to Nairobi Remand and Allocation Maximum Prison in September 2018 with aim of reaching approximately 100 people in remand.
Q. What are the future plans for the initiative?
We plan to become an accredited legal aid provider in Kenya from the National Legal Aid Service (under the Legal Aid Act 2016). We also plan to extend our legal services to neighbouring counties. There is a recognised need to reach out beyond Nairobi.
However, note that the process of application is still being deliberated on and developed in the draft regulations to the Legal Aid Act.
Q. Anything else worth sharing with our readers?
The SoL is committed to providing quality legal services, being inclusive and respectful, and making a difference through the Public Legal Clinics. Our hope is that we play a significant role in ensuring all disfranchised and vulnerable persons in Kenya are able to access quality legal services to protect and defend their human rights.