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Study visit to the Legal Clinic of the University of Zagreb

A delegation of national partners of the ENEMLOS project from Montenegro visited the Legal Clinic of the University of Zagreb from October 20 to 22, 2021. The Bar Chamber of Montenegro was represented by the Project Manager Dr Nina Radulović and the Quality Manager Maja Živković.

The delegation was received on October 20th by the Head of the Legal Clinic, Prof. dr Alan Uzelac together with the associate Dr Juraj Brozović who further explained the details related to the functioning of the clinic mentioned in the online training conducted in December 2020. They especially pointed out that the clinic survives thanks to the great enthusiasm of the teaching staff who volunteer on mentoring tasks together with attorneys, but also thanks to students’ enthusiasm who appreciate the clinical experience and the opportunity for independent work, both in providing legal assistance and in the organization.

It was further stressed out that the work of the clinic would not be possible without the support of the Faculty of Law, whose curriculum for the fifth year of the studies provides for a mandatory internship that carries the largest number of credits (10 maximum points), and which is realized either in the Legal Clinic, a law office (15 days internship) or in simulated trials (“Moot court”). A large number of students decide to do practical work in the Legal Clinic (over a hundred during one semester), and these are not only fifth-year students, but can also be lower grade students, usually from the third year, eager to gain experience.

When it comes to finances, the Legal Clinic does not have a permanent and sufficient source of funding, which to some extent presents a difficulty for its functioning. In order to strengthen it financially, the establishment of a non-governmental organization is being considered, which would enable the clinic to withdraw donor funds. The ideal solution would be the undertaking of a permanent financing obligation by the City Bar Chamber.

The numerous Montenegrin delegation was then divided into five smaller groups who spent the next few days on half-day visits to the Legal Clinic and saw, on the spot, how the clinic was administratively organized, how clients were handled and what were the students’ experiences. In this part of the study visit, a good administrative organization of the clinic was spotted with students who are divided into three groups (clinicians, mentors and administrators) who practically run the clinic completely independently. Mandatory internship in the clinic is one academic semester (many students choose to stay longer, up to 2 years) with a work obligation of several hours once a week, a total of 5 to 6 legal opinions during clinical practice, 10 hours of volunteer work in one of the NGOs with which the clinic has established cooperation and 2 field visits, i.e. work outside the territory of the city of Zagreb for which students are paid per diems. Also, the work of the student administrators is paid. Students who perform their duties improperly and poorly can get a negative characteristic, but those who prove themselves with exceptional work can get praise with a biographical recommendation.

All materials produced in the Legal Clinic in the form of written opinion by students are first reviewed by more experienced student mentors, and then by professors and attorneys. The material passes an average of 2 and a half times quality control before delivery to the party seeking legal advice, while cases are completed within 15 days on average or within 2 months at the latest. Simple questions, such as a basic inquiry about holding of the right to free legal aid, are answered by students on the spot in the form of a legal information. Since the beginning of its work until today, more than 17,000 cases have been processed by the clinic. The clinic can also boast of publishing the magazine "Pro bono", which is published once a year, and consists of student articles on a given topic.

The general impression of the representatives of the Bar Chamber of Montenegro is that the Legal Clinic has an obvious problem of financial self-sustainability for which, despite many years of operation, no satisfactory solution has been found. When observing the work of students in the clinic, a high degree of responsibility was noticed in conducting administrative work and fulfilling of formal conditions for providing legal assistance (scheduling clients, taking their basic data, communicating necessary information related to principles of work of the clinic and entering collected data regarding clients and cases into electronic database). However, unpreparedness and immaturity of students in handling client communication was noticed, which results in incompletely collected data on the factual status of cases taken into work, which may further question the adequacy of delivered legal opinions to these specific situations and their quality in general.


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