Connectivity, confidentiality and confidence: Key issues in the provision of online pro bono activities

Jones, Emma; Ryan, Francine and Mcfaul, Hugh (2018). Connectivity, confidentiality and confidence: Key issues in the provision of online pro bono activities. International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, 25(2) pp. 48–88.



The provision of pro bono activities for law students has become an established feature of the undergraduate legal education landscape in Law Schools in the United Kingdom (“UK”) and beyond, providing the experiential elements of clinical legal education programmes. Pro bono activities conducted online, or utilising and enhanced by technologies in other ways (for example, through the development of a mobile phone application providing legal guidance), are increasingly becoming a part of this offering, reflecting wider shifts within legal practice and society and an increasing recognition of the importance of digital literacy skills. This paper will situate these forms of online and technologically-enhanced pro bono activities both within the wider context of contemporary clinical legal education and also as a part of broader professional and societal shifts. It will explore a variety of innovative approaches being taken internationally, including work done by The Open University’s Open Justice Centre in the UK, before moving on to focus on a number of key challenges and opportunities which may arise through the increasing provision of these new forms of pro bono activities by Law Schools. These include the potential and pitfalls of the technology involved, issues with confidentiality (particularly in the context of online legal advice) and the issue of how to foster trust in the online environment. The paper will conclude with a number of suggestions for areas requiring further research and discussion to enable contemporary clinicians to fully utilise the potential of online and technologically-enhanced pro bono activities.

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