BABSEACLE: My Mentors Take Me over the Bridge to Global CLE

By Professor Xiaofeng Wu, Manager, Criminal Clinical Legal Program in China

As I sincerely said to Bruce Lasky and Wendy Morrish, directors of BABSEACLE, after our China Criminal Clinic Workshop in Sanya, China at the end of 2011, they have been the cause and the witnesses to my growth in the global CLE movement. They know how inexper-ienced I was when we met in 2010 and how much progress I’ve made. I consider them my mentors – without them, I would still be outside the CLE world.

In August of 2010, shortly after I took the job of Criminal Clinic project manager, my project grant allowed me to attend the workshop “CLE in Viet Nam and Overseas Experience” at Vinh University in Viet Nam. This was an amazing experience for me and a revelation: all the participants – students, teachers and trainers – were enthusiastically involved in group events concerning the topic of a certain element of CLE… and they were playing games! They were singing and dancing and drawing and talking and laughing!  I was so surprised that these truly “alive” people were connected with higher education!

I had been a criminal law professor for 13 years, but I only knew how to lecture. Sometimes we might do case analysis or stage a mock trial, but there was not much interaction between the lecturer and students. Certainly, there were no brainstorming sessions or role plays or any kind of simulation in the classroom – it was always quiet and still. Just at this first workshop, encouraged and instructed by Bruce and Wendy and even the students there, I became aware of exactly what CLE and its interactive methods meant. It was my first experience of a CLE class – and I loved it.

Since then, invited by BABSEACLE or arranged by my project grant, I have joined the CLE Thailand workshop in Chiang Mai in November 2010 with Chinese clinician Prof. Wei Guiding from Beijing Forestry University; I have recommended Chinese clinicians Prof. Xu Shenjian from China University of Politics and Law and Prof. Meng Jun from Beijing Normal University Law School to attend the 2nd National CLE Workshop in Can Tho, Viet Nam in January, 2011, and attended the HRBA2J-Asia and CLE Workshop in Chiang Mai in August, 2011. I also invited Prof. Gao Yuexian from Sichuan University and Prof. Chen Jianmin, who is the general secretary of the China Committee of Clinic Legal Educators (CCCLE) to accompany me to the conference “Strengthening CLE in Viet Nam” in Hanoi in August.

Going Global

For each of these events, I collaborated with my Chinese colleagues to prepare for their presentations and communicated with them for their reports after. Through these BABSEACLE events, I not only learned more about CLE itself, but also about the CLE situation in China, as well as in other countries. In September 2011, I attended the conference on CLE in Indonesia, where I gave my first presentation on CLE. It was not too bad! But having a lot of information to give in a limited time can make me tense. Bruce and Wendy not only encouraged me, they also gave me good advice on how to improve: such as keeping clear headlines, time control and controlling my speed of speaking English. I know they want to help me do better and be excellent!

Although China has developed CLE for more than ten years, in some areas it is still weak, especially in the area of criminal law. As the criminal clinic project manager in China, I had been looking forward to the day Bruce and Wendy could come to China to share their experience with my colleagues. They finally came in December 2011, to our Criminal Clinic Workshop in Sanya, China.

It was wonderful – they warmed up the participants with games on the subject of “passion, care and responsibility”, and inspired us with their ideals of helping people. They taught us the strategy of making a three-year CLE work plan with the connection of the Three Virtues. Afterward, I received feedback from participants who said, “They are such inspiring people, and it was so interesting that the strategy they taught us is something around us daily, but which we have never used – and it is important and useful not only for our CLE work, but for all our other programs, even for life itself.”

I was so fortunate that when I started my CLE project job, I had the opportunity to meet Bruce and Wendy and be connected with BABSEACLE. It is because of that meeting that I am now a true member of the global CLE movement!