A virtual law clinic: a realist evaluation of what works for whom, why, how and in what circumstances?

Ryan, Francine (2019). A virtual law clinic: a realist evaluation of what works for whom, why, how and in what circumstances? The Law Teacher (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03069400.2019.1651550

Abstract

This study uses a theory-driven realist evaluative approach to analyse a virtual law clinic to understand what works for whom, in what circumstances and why. A virtual law clinic within a UK distance education institution was evaluated, drawing on empirical evidence from a series of interviews carried out with students who participated in the clinic. This article adopts a realist framework to provide an in-depth explanation of students’ experiences of engaging in a virtual law clinic. Students gained practical and professional legal skills from participating in the clinic; additionally the virtual context afforded opportunities for students to develop technological skills. Students require sufficient time, training and opportunities in order to interact effectively with technological applications. Recommendations are made for further research to understand the role technology has in supporting clinical legal education. This is the first realist evaluation of students’ experiences of working in a virtual law clinic and demonstrates how a theory-driven approach can provide insights into the transferability of clinical legal education to an online setting.

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