The Benefits and Challenges of the Policy Clinic Model of Clinical Legal Education

  • Siobhan McConnell Northumbria University
  • Lyndsey Bengtsson Northumbria University
  • Rachel Dunn Leeds Beckett University
Keywords: policy clinic, policy work, clinical legal education, social justice ethos


This article examines the benefits and challenges of the policy clinic model of clinical legal education and enhances our understanding of the value of this teaching model. In policy clinics, students undertake policy work, conducting a research project for a client with a specific research need. This article presents the findings of the first detailed empirical study into policy clinics, capturing the perceptions of those supervising and undertaking policy work in the policy clinic at [anonymised] Law School. We found that policy work provided clear pedagogical benefits to students as they saw development of both their skills and their employability. Notably, there was a transformative shift for many students from an initial individualistic motivation for what policy work would bring to them personally, to an acknowledgment of the impact of their work on the wider community. Supervisors also benefited from policy work because it enhanced their skills and facilitated their research interests. However, there were challenges with this teaching model, including workload issues, fitting research projects into the academic year and ensuring true student-supervisor collaboration existed within a research project. The study will be of interest to academics undertaking, or intending to undertake, policy work both in Europe and beyond.