New legal aid project in Rwanda with CLAM

This new project is a cooperation between the University of Rwanda, Free University of Amsterdam and the Center for International Legal Cooperation. The school of law of the University of Rwanda runs a centre for legal aid and mediation (CLAM). My role is to contribute as technical expert to develop the M&E framework, the development of a new database system and follow up activities in the areas of legal aid in 2021.

The legal aid services of CLAM are very relevant and needed. Many people cannot afford the services of lawyers and mediators and it is expected that demand will remain high in the foreseeable future. In CLAM, legal aid services are provided by students, who are supervised by academic staff as part of a mandatory legal course in the 3rd year of the bachelor law education programme. In a period of six week students provide legal aid in various legal areas such as land law, property law, criminal law, contract law cases and family law.

The course is offered continuously throughout the academic year from September to June to subsequent groups of 20 students. Every 4 weeks a new group starts with the course in order to ensure that the provision of legal aid is continuous. Legal teams are made up of 2 students who receive clients on Friday mornings and help them with all kinds of legal questions and issues.

However, before any advice is given, it will be reviewed by a qualified legal supervisor to ensure quality control. CLAM receives many clients in the legal aid clinic, but also reaches out to communities inside the country. Often as part of the annual legal aid week, but also in the context of projects or other structures.

The beauty and strength of their system is that it creates real access to justice for people that cannot afford legal fees and at the same time trains law students at the university how the law functions in practice. The supervision by qualified legal staff ensure quality of the provided services. Everybody wins!