It has become clear to me after a year under the programme that detachment of legal education from the legal, social, and economic realities of the people will only render me irrelevant to the community.Christopher Percy Mpindi, PILAC student and President of Makerere University Law School
The Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC), the first university based law clinic in Uganda is celebrating 10 years of existence in which it says it has transformed the teaching and practice of law while addressing social justice needs of Ugandans.
PILAC was founded in January 2012 at Makerere University Law School to provide hands on legal experience to law students by exposing them to live legal scenarios while equipping the students with public interest lawyering skills.
“The Public Interest Law Clinic seeks to promote a culture of social justice lawyering in Uganda by developing a consciousness amongst law students of the important role public interest lawyering plays in protecting the rights of ordinary Ugandans” PILAC says.
Celebrations to mark PILAC’s 10th anniversary have started today, 15th November, their chosen “Legal Aid Awareness Day.”
The clinic aims to use this event going on at Makerere University Law School gardens to create more awareness on human rights especially disability rights, governance and legal issues while offering an opportunity to law students to participate through assisting in the legal awareness campaign.
Subsequently, PILAC will hold a conference on Thursday, 17th where its actual impact on the legal profession, legal teaching and public interest litigation will be analyzed.
And later on Friday, the law clinic will organize a dinner at the School of law which it says will be attended by Makerere University management, PILAC’s partners, PILAC alumni, among other guests.
On this dinner, the Clinic says, awards will be given to its outstanding partners and alumni “who have upheld the PILAC vision in their professional growth.”
In the course of its decade-long existence, PILAC says its services have reached out to nearly 600 students, over 1000 vulnerable people and over 200 legal practitioners.
PILAC’s services include: Clinical Legal Education (CLE), community outreach, legal aid services, research and advocacy, mobile legal aid programmes, litigation, public lectures, among others.
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PILAC’s director, Prof. Christopher Mbazira had not responded to our requests for comment by publishing time.
Chris Percy Mpindi, a law student under PILAC’s CLE programme who interned at the Refugee Law Project (RLP) in Lamwo district described his experience with the law clinic as “a journey of transformation.”
Chris says he learnt that the law and lawyers could be rendered irrelevant if they lost touch with the communities in which they operate.
“Under the program, every weekly Tuesday from 19th July to 16th August was community day. In a deliberately tailored nature, we had interactions with nearby slum communities on issues ranging from the succession law impact on women, the role of LCs [local councils] in the community, children’s rights, human trafficking and employment law, among others.” Chris narrates.
“ It felt to me like my bubble burst open when I discovered the glaring differences in reality between the law as it is taught and the realities of the people for whom the law is drafted.
“A lawyer’s tool is the law and with its relevance flows a lawyer’s relevance to the communities. Of what use would one require a commercial lawyer if the commercial laws were not in effect? It has become clear to me after a year under the programme that detachment of legal education from the legal, social, and economic realities of the people will only render me irrelevant to the community.”
Benjamin Ahikiiriza is a Legal Writer And Digital Communications & Marketing Specialist majoring in Lawyers, Law Firms And the larger Legal Sector.
Benjamin currently Works as the Director of Content and Business Development At LegalReports.