The Law Clinic of the University of Zagreb Faculty of Law is a voluntary form of teaching in the final fifth year of the study program. It was founded at the beginning of the academic year 2010/2011 by Professor Alan Uzelac, Ph. D., Head of the Department of Civil Procedure. In the beginning, it was conceived as an experimental form of teaching, which involved students, teaching and research assistants, and a number of professors at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb, to examine whether there was the possibility of introducing such a form of education in the regular curriculum in the final year of the study program.
The guiding principle was to better equip the students in the final year of study for work in practice after they completed their studies, and to allow access to legal advice and information to the poor and socially disadvantaged groups of society who do not have sufficient financial means and cannot get information in any other way simply because they cannot afford a lawyer.
The legal framework within which the Law Clinic operates is the Law on Free Legal Aid. The law divides legal aid into primary and secondary aid, depending on whether or not the provider of free legal aid is allowed to represent the client before the court. As a part of the Faculty of Law, the Law Clinic is authorized to provide only primary legal aid, i.e. the students who work there cannot represent clients before the court; what they can do is give out legal advice and general legal information, as well as provide help in drafting documents for use in administrative and other procedures.
Cases in the Law Clinic are handled both independently and collectively by 3rd, 4th and 5th year students, while being given guidance and case approval by academic mentors – lawyers, teaching and research assistants, as well as professors of the Faculty of Law, which mitigates fears of potential incompetence. All students are organized into groups specializing in particular areas of law, which are recognized to be of the greatest importance for the clients of the Clinic. There are currently eight groups in the Law Clinic:
Group for asylum seekers and aliens
Group for the elimination of discrimination and the rights of minorities
Group for the rights of children and family maintenance
Group for the protection of and assistance to crime victims
Group for the protection of workers’ rights
Group for the protection of patients’ rights
Group for the protection of citizens in enforcement proceedings
Group for public relations – the editorial board of the magazine Pro Bono
The target population of the Law Clinic comprises people on low income and socially vulnerable groups of society. On the basis of these basic parameters, the triage of clients that address the Law Clinic for help is performed. In order to contact the Clinic and have their case reviewed, one can visit the Clinic premises personally in 6 Žerjavićeva street (preferably with making a prior appointment via phone numbers 01/4811-320 or 01/4811-324, also by which cases can be submitted in exceptional circumstances) or by using the online form. The person on call then writes down all the necessary personal and contact information, as well as the particulars of the case at hand. Using this information, the Law Clinic will decide whether it will accept the case after which, in case it does, the case is given to a student. After the student finishes his/her analysis, the work group in his/her respective Clinic group, comprising of other students, agrees upon the content of the legal advice to be given to the client. The client is informed of the steps taken in solving his/her case, as well as all the pertinent decisions and conclusions the Clinic makes.
You can read more about our clinical legal education program in our international edition of the official journal Pro bono. The second edition, celebrating our tenth anniversary has recently been published. It can be accessed here.