Clerkship Programme Gives Law Students an Edge Over Their Peers
The necessity for Law students to have an understanding of the judiciary through enhancing their research skills and knowledge of real life court cases is what drives the Clerkship programme facilitated by Judge Malcom Wallis in the School of Law.
The programme sees senior students appointed by Judge Wallis research cases and prepares case notes of cases that Judge Wallis will sit in at the Supreme Court of Appeal and debate them as a group. While the Court is in recess, the students go through the court records and written summaries to prepare their own cases notes in which Judge Wallis will be involved. After they have concluded and compiled their notes they present their findings to their peers and debate them with the judge.
Judge Wallis had this to say about the rationale behind the programme:
‘The idea for the programme came from the many courts around the world, including our own Constitutional Court, that have clerks undertaking research and working with judges for a year after graduating. The students involved are senior students who have a grasp of basic legal principles. This introduces them to the practical work of the law where they encounter real legal problems and see how they are addressed by the courts.’
‘In the process their research skills are honed and their horizons broadened, which I hope will make them better lawyers. The fact that a number of the participants over the past few years have gone on to win prestigious scholarships, to study at top universities and take on roles in large firms and as clerks at the Constitutional Court is an indication that the programme is achieving some of these goals.’
Reflecting on this learning experience, Law students, Mr Linda Matshinga, Mr Musa Kika, Ms Diann Bishunath, Ms Angelique Barroso and Ms Stephanie-Jayne Maher has given them an opportunity to put the theory they have been learning into practice.
‘My approach to theory is now very informed having spent a full year putting that in practice. I have also learnt to be very open minded in my thinking and approach to legal problems. That has refined my thinking and my academic career will benefit greatly from this,’ said Kika who will be pursuing a research masters in Public Law at the University of Cape Town next year.
Matshinga said: ‘The skills acquired from this programme are meant to prepare you for being a lawyer even though I have no doubt that they are relevant in a person’s academic career as they include analysing facts and determining the relevant from the irrelevant and, among other things, broadens your knowledge of the law.’
Bishunath said the programme has sharpened her research, writing, reading and speaking skills which will assist her in future career as an attorney.
‘These skills may sound basic but it takes time and practice to perfect. These skills have taught me how to be objective - so as to separate myself from the matter, critical - it has taught me how to challenge arguments and find the loopholes, and how to think and respond quickly, not to mention how to take all these skills, and reflect them on paper,’ she said,