Strathclyde Law Clinic students get first hand experience on Miami Exchange

Four students from the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic have recently returned from an educational exchange with the University of Miami Law Clinic.

Kirstie Webb, Michael Ballantyne, Laura Cheng and Alice Bowman spent four days in May absorbing the work conducted by the students of Miami’s Clinic.

All had different reasons for wanting to participate in the exchange. Kirstie said: “Having researched the Miami Health Rights Clinic I wanted to see how a specialist clinic operated in practice. I also thought that it would be a great opportunity to meet new people and experience a different type of clinic and university life.”

Laura said: “I was really interested in learning about another legal system (especially the mechanics of another Clinic in another jurisdiction worked) and I had never been to America before, so I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to apply for the exchange.”

Michael said: “I had done a research project on the Clinic last year and wanted to develop this by seeing how another Clinic operates. My classes in 4th year also included very ethical and clinical subjects which made me more interested in the Clinic from an ethical perspective.”

Arriving on Sunday 20th May, they were treated to a welcome dinner at Montys Raw Bar then headed to the hotel for the night. The students were introduced to the Health Rights Clinic, which is a specialist clinic, time was then spent on finishing off presentations.

On Tuesday May 22nd, the students got the chance to see client intake at the South Florida Aids Network where they sat in on client meetings. Laura said: “I really enjoyed sitting in on Miami’s Clinic’s equivalent of initial interviews at the hospital; their clinic specialises in health rights, immigration and adjustment issues, social security and benefits, which I thought was really interesting, and something a little different to Strathclyde.” The group had some spare time in the evening to explore the sights and sounds of Miami.

On the last day of the exchange the students experienced the cultural side of Miami. They took in the street art/graffiti on the Wynwood Art Walk. They had a farewell dinner at Tap Tap Restaurant and enjoyed a last night with the students.

All of the students who attended felt that it is vital for Strathclyde Law Clinic to have this connection with their Miami counterparts. With the Miami Clinic dealing with issues that Strathclyde do not. Michael said: “We rarely tackle issues similar to what Miami deal with. Miami clients were HIV positive, had gunshot wounds, no access to healthcare and allows a sharp perspective to be taken when we come back to Strathclyde.”

Kirstie said: “A relationship between the clinics is important to allow students to experience how a different type of clinic works in practice. The two clinics are extremely different and I think it’s a great way to see the benefits of having a specialist law clinic.”

Laura said: “I think it’s important because it really emphasises the importance of Law Clinics all around the world – it’s good to have an awareness of other countries/people who face different problems and how clinics like Miami and Strathclyde’s can help.”

The experience has opened the eyes of the students to what could be incorporated into Clinic life at Strathclyde. Michael said: “The Miami Clinic appears to have a lot more outreach exposure. They physically go out into communities, hospitals, clinics and speak to clients. Whereas at Strathclyde, minus the IAC’s (which now only happen in the Clinic) and other small projects, we do not specifically go out into a community, hospital etc. with a specific aim.”

Kirstie said: “The Miami Clinic operates extremely differently from ours. For starters, the students are only part of the clinic for one semester and get credits for their work. It’s a specialist clinic meaning students participating in the Health Rights Clinic represent multiple clients in different legal matters related to health. This contrasts to the generalist clinic structure that we follow.”