Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

27 Indiana J. Global Legal Studies 1 (2020)


This paper first provides a brief description of the genesis of legal

clinics in Italy, and highlights the motivations and expectations lying

behind the emergence of the legal clinic movement in this

context. Second, the paper gives a brief description of the institutional

context of legal aid in Italy, and assesses its effectiveness in terms of

granting legal assistance to those unable to afford a lawyer. The third

and fourth parts then offer an account of court enforcement mechanisms

that aim to ensure effective access to justice. Part three gives this

account through the lens of court enforcement of the Workers' Statute,

and part four gives this account through the lens of court enforcement of

antidiscrimination law provisions concerning race, ethnic origin and


This paper then explores these experiences described in the first few

sections, going beyond their success or failure in enforcing rights in

court, to then enlarge the field of inquiry to the relation between legal

strategies and political mobilization. Part five discusses the danger that

institutions and strategies, designed to strengthen access to justice,

might disempower rather than empower individuals and communities

that they aim to serve, and that these individual and collective needs

may be forced/fit into pre-established frameworks and strategies. Part

six provides a context-sensitive assessment of the type of contribution

legal clinics can provide in addressing the limits of the national system

of access to justice, and in moving forward a critical reflection on public

interest law practices in the Italian and, more broadly, in the European


We conclude that the coexistence of educational and social justice

aims provide clinics with a number of comparative advantages over

other actors of public interest law. Clinics embody a unique forum to

better understand the nature of legal knowledge and legal practice, and

to reflect critically on how the right to access to justice is actually

enforced. Clinicians are not only a community of practice, but also a

worldwide epistemic community. Legal clinics are, therefore, a space to

both practice public interest law, and to rethink such practices, and to

influence public policies on access to justice. Providing a reflective space

on existing practices and promoting alternative practices of public

interest law might thus, we argue, represent the major contribution of

legal clinics in making access to justice more effective.

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