The Nelson Mandela University Law Clinic has been in existence for more than 30 years and, since the beginning of 2015, forms part of the Department of Criminal and Procedural Law of the Law Faculty. The clinic is directed by Ms Matilda Smith, with the assistance of two attorneys, Mr Marc Welgemoed and Ms Vuyokazi Lolwana. Other staff also includes a receptionist, a legal secretary, 6 candidate attorneys and a messenger.  The clinic provides services to the impoverished areas of Nelson Mandela Bay and is ideally situated at the Nelson Mandela University, Missionvale Campus. Because the clinic is easily accessible to surrounding impoverished areas, it plays a major role in community engagement.  The clinic operates in the manner of a professional law firm.  Apart from the mentioned attorneys, the staff of the law clinic also consists of a receptionist, a legal secretary, 6 candidate attorneys and a messenger. 

Apart from community engagement, teaching and learning is the prime goal of the clinic.  In achieving this goal, a paralegal service, run by final year law students and under the supervision of the Clinical Legal Education-facilitator, is in operation on a weekly basis. A 1.5 hour service per student per week in the clinic is a prerequisite for graduation of the said students.  Paralegal interventions include the provision of advice and assistance to the poor, generally relating to domestic matters that include inter alia, writing of letters, completion of official forms, etc.  The students are also trained to draft formal legal documents, as well as to consult with clients and witnesses. This includes perusing the students’ client files, approving letters and legal documents drafted by the students, as well as providing guidance to the students with regard to consultations and adequate advice to clients.  In this way, a platform for practical learning, analysis and application of legal theory is provided to the students.  The students are also sensitised to the needs, problems and expectations of their clients, who mostly are from the poorest and vulnerable parts of society.  The students are further trained to act ethically and morally correct when handling cases and advising clients. 

The mentioned student training further provides a very firm basis for the term of community service students as Candidate Attorneys must undergo before being admitted as attorneys. Countless students have expressed their gratitude towards the staff of the clinic for the valuable practical experience the training has provided to them, as they have no difficulty in working in law firms or other legal institutions after their legal studies had been completed.

As mentioned, the law clinic also employs candidate attorneys. The Director, as well as the attorneys, provides practical training to these candidate attorneys until they are ready to be admitted as attorneys.  Since 2007, the law clinic has trained candidate attorneys, many of whom now are involved in private legal practice as attorneys, practising as advocates or legal advisers.

There is therefore no doubt that the Nelson Mandela University Law Clinic is an essential and valuable part of the training of law students, as well as candidate attorneys.  It is an entity within the university where teaching, learning and community engagement cannot be separated from one another.