Five law schools in China have joined IBJ‘s Criminal Clinical Legal Education project by introducing clinical education designed to contribute to the development of China’s criminal justice system. The three-year initiative, which started in 2007, is part of IBJ’s efforts to provide hands-on practice to students in representation of China’s indigent accused.

The new participants in the program — Beijing Normal University Law School, China University of Political Science and Law, Eastern China University of Political Science and Law, Qinghai Nationalities University Law School and Guangxi University Law School — were selected in May based on the schools’ resources, region and demographics. These schools have limited experience with clinical legal education and therefore IBJ and its partner CCCLE, an association of Chinese clinical law educators, will work closely with these schools to help develop successful program models.

Under the leadership of Clinical Program Director Robert Precht, IBJ and CCCLE have worked together in building a curriculum and training program that would be most useful to students studying criminal law. There are have been several achievements since in the last six months. The project first surveyed the program’s three pilot schools with criminal clinical programs — Northwest University of Politics and Law, Renmin University, and Sichuan University — to understand the obstacles China’s law schools face in developing criminal clinical curriculum and to improve future programs. IBJ and CCCLE have also developed training programs and workshops throughout the country, including a 2-day National Training Conference in Nanning, Guangxi Province, which supported law professors in basic advocacy and critical thinking skills for criminal justice. In July, IBJ hosted a Regional Training Workshop at Qinghai Nationalities University in Xining, where 40 professors from 13 law schools attended. The goals of the training — to refine educators’ skills and techniques for teaching clinical students and to standardize a best practice approach — were realized through practical guidance on effective management of clinical legal education programs, demonstrations of client counseling techniques and a series of panels and discussions, including a presentation by Ira Belkin, program officer with the Ford Foundation and former federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, on how China’s criminal clinical programs can contribute to the development of the rule of law.

Looking ahead, the criminal clinical project is planning to release two resource guides available to students taking criminal clinical courses in China’s law schools by January 2009. IBJ is currently collaborating with select Chinese professors to produce the texts to stimulate students’ critical thinking in the realm of criminal justice. One of the resource guides will analyze the top ten US Supreme Court cases on criminal law from a Chinese perspective. The second will illustrate, through popular films available in China, some of the ethical dilemmas defense lawyers face in criminal practice. The texts are designed not only to share foreign experience but to encourage class discussions about existing conditions in China.

To read more about IBJ’s China programs, click here.