About the guide

Learning Law in Place (the Guide) will develop your reflective practice skills, engage you in discussions of access to justice issues and help you navigate the complex practical, ethical and emotional challenges that come with the world of lawyering. The Guide cannot be all things to all people and is but one tool to enhance your experiential learning.

The intended learning outcomes of this Guide are:

  • Develop your reflective practice skills and deepen your ability to learn from experience
  • Build your critical consciousness about barriers and solutions to access to justice challenges, and assist to make connections between research on access to justice and how to improve legal practice
  • Support you to form your own professional identity through new approaches to lawyering
  • Support you to develop personal wellness practices, and
  • Develop skills to use wherever your legal training takes you in the future.

This Guide is intended to help maximize your WIL experience. Evidence suggests that when students and professionals are intentional about their learning, it results in deeper and longer lasting learning and better personal and career outcomes.Footnote1 For many law students, the first taste of “real life” lawyering may occur in law school through a WIL experience. That might include everything from pro bono hours at a non-profit organization to “summering” at a law firm. Your WIL might be an externship, internship or co-op learning program, classes with a placement option or even a problem-based learning course. WILs offer an excellent way to discover more about the practice of law and help figure out what you want (or don’t want) to do as a legal professional.

These experiences can help you understand more about the people and institutions related to law and the justice system, and can increase consciousness about access to justice, while potentially also increasing service and fostering new approaches to helping people seeking justice.

You can use this Guide for different WIL experiences. Whether you pick it up at the beginning, middle or end of a WIL experience, there are useful exercises and tools to help you better understand and benefit from law-related work. It provides resources to support you in sustaining a lifelong commitment to a career in law and to improving access to justice.


The Learning Law in Place Guide is a project of the Canadian Bar Association Access to Justice Subcommittee’s Legal Education Working Group. It was written by Gemma Smyth, with the assistance of other Working Group members Douglas Ferguson, LA Henry, Michele Leering and Brea Lowenberger. An Advisory Committee – Patricia Barkaskas, Sarah Buhler, Rebecca Johnson, Michael Marin, Lise Rivet, Annie Rochette and David Wiseman – gave important feedback. Special thanks are also due to other legal educators and law students who tested the Guide and offered their insights, as well as workshop participants at the Canadian Association of Law Teachers and Association of Clinical Legal Educators’ Conferences in 2017 and 2018.