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Experiential Learning Benefits Students and Community

Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Students hard at work for CLASSICStudents in the College of Law’s Clinical Law program have access to an innovative and unique experiential learning opportunity that most students refer to simply as ‘CLASSIC.’ The program is a collaboration between the College of Law and a legal clinic in Saskatoon’s core, CLASSIC (Community Legal Services for Saskatoon Inner City Inc.).  It is one of only a few similar programs of its kind in Canada. The curricular component of CLASSIC has been running for five years now. An intensive model based on the original curricular program began last year in the fall, in which a cohort of ten students per term work 32 hours per week as the primary legal representatives for around 15 clients each.  During the week, students are engaged in learning and applying all of the practical skills that they will need when they leave school, including interviewing clients and speaking to judges. Students obtain full credit for the term.

My experience with CLASSIC ‘brought to life’ abstract legal concepts; enabled opportunities to develop lawyering skills; and exposed me to the realities of poverty law, and the importance of pro bono work. The Clinical increased my perspective to critically analyze the legal system, and to realize how law impacts real people in their daily lives. Further, I was exposed to areas of the law that I didn’t realize I would enjoy, and can now make more informed course selections and career choices.” –  Law student Brea Lowenberger

Sarah Buhler (left), Experiential learning is supplemented by a more theoretical seminar class, held once per week. Professor Sarah Buhler said that the seminars “provide depth about the social, economic, political, and legal contexts behind some of the issues that are specific to working with the community served by CLASSIC.”  Because the program integrates practical and experiential learning with academic seminars, Buhler said the students are able to develop “critical thinking skills in the broadest sense.” In addition to the students who are enrolled in the intensive model, CLASSIC also involves around 30 pro bono student volunteers who gain valuable experience by taking on client files for four hours per week.

CLASSIC works to involve neighbouring community organizations, to fulfil its commitment to community engagement. By developing relationships with other organizations in the community, CLASSIC is able to help legal information reach the public. The students at CLASSIC benefit from community relationship building as well, said Buhler, because this “teaches about how law functions in the day to day lives of the people and communities in which they are working.”