As part of its effort to promote access to justice and legal education to the Ghanaian public, the Law School of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) launched a Legal Clinic on Monday, October 16, 2023.
The Legal Clinic was opened in collaboration with the University of Califonia, San Francisco, USA.
The Clinic offers legal advice, direct representation in matters involving Students, family, consumer protection, property and other legal areas affecting the school community as well as training, pro bono programs and workshops on wide legal issues.
A Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Diana Asonaba Dapaah who officially opened the Legal Clinic commended the UPSA Law School for coming up with such a program which she believed would bring a significant contribution to access to justice for the citizenry.
She said an innovative program of this nature would go a long way to complement the office of the Legal Aide Commission under the Office of Attorney General to provide free legal services to the vulnerable in society.
Professor Ernest Abotsi, Dean of the UPSA Law School said the Clinic would bring legal services closer to the people, especially those who could not hire services of lawyers on their own.
He bemoaned the fact that many lawyers do not want to venture into criminal and other human rights issues to defend the marginalized due to the low remuneration and urged Law students of the school to utilize the Legal Clinic so they could be useful to society in the near future.
Mr. Nelson Mawutor Kporha, a Senior Lawyer at the Legal Aide Commission said their outfit is inundated with thousands of cases including criminal, civil and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
According to him, the Commission has only 40 lawyers to handle over 800 criminal cases, a little over 8,000 civil cases and many more ADR cases across the county.
He called for financial support to the commission from stakeholders to keep the commission running to meet its objectives of providing free legal services to citizens who are unable to procure services of lawyers on their own.
Mr. Saviour Kudze, PRO of GBA, Prof. Gail Silverstein Associate Dean of the University of Califonia, Mr Alan Collier of Pepperdine Caruso School of Law and Mr. Ebenezer Obeng of Centre for Promotion of Human Rights and Development in Africa in their respective remarks also applauded the UPSA Law School for the Legal Clinic and pledged their supports to advance its objectives.
A Senior Lecture at the UPSA Law School and Coordinator of the Legal Clinic, Madam Mavis Efua Enyamah Kwainoe said the clinic provides law students with the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with real clients while empowering and serving the school community and its environs.
She explained that the clinic will build students’ abilities as lawyers, leaders, advocates, policy analysts and community organizers through hands-on interaction with community members in need of legal services, referrals and other forms of advocacy.
In order to reach as many people as possible, Dr. Francisca Kussi Appiah, Head of the Department of Public Law of UPSA, said the legal Clinic which has been launched in collaboration with Califonia University and other foreign partners would provide a continuum of legal services that range from providing legal education information, such as where to file a complaint, to full-scale representation,” she said.
She said the Clinic would ensure increased access to justice with the availability of senior lawyers, emphasizing that, “Our goal for the clinic is to provide holistic legal services. In order to do this, lawyers must always explore whether litigation is the best solution for the client.”
The Acting Executive Director of the Legal Aide Commission, Madam Ellen Adwoa Sweetie Sowah told EXPRESSNEWSGHANA after the launching that the Commission is bedeviled with poor resources, especially financial resources, personnel and logistics to run effectively.
According to her, the challenges make it impossible to pay the meager fees due lawyers for their pro-bono services and the worst of all is the fact that, even though filing for cases is absorbed by the state, clients still find it difficult to foot transportation for lawyers to attend court to defend them.
Madam Sweetie Sowah believed the Commission remained a relevant state institution to assist citizens in obtaining justice and called on corporate organizations to extend their social corporate responsibilities to the Commission by funding its services as they do for other social events in the country.
She also commended the UPSA Law School for coming up with the Legal Clinic and expressed the hope that it would expose the Law students to the practical work of lawyers as well augment the Commission’s effort to render legal services to vulnerable citizens.
The clinic will be staffed primarily by students to gain legal skills and learn substantive law related to their current cases and the opportunity for them to apply and resolve practical Community problems.
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