Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): They present a new socio-legal work model for user care and student training

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Professors from the Faculty of Law and the School of Social Work of the Catholic University generated a new model of interdisciplinary care that seeks to address legal problems from a comprehensive perspective and, thereby, improve access and the perception of quality around justice. mainly from vulnerable groups.

The challenge of interdisciplinary work for access to justice. A socio-legal work model for the care of users and the interdisciplinary training of lawyers and social workers is the title of the research carried out by UC academics Rodrigo Azócar, Liliana Guerra, Jeanne Hersant, Cristián Villalonga and the person in charge of the social care area of ​​the Clinic Legal Law UC , Estefanía Palacios.

The work, which will be published soon by the Tirant Lo Blanch publishing house, was presented on August 19 at the international seminar entitled The Challenge of Interdisciplinary Work for Access to Justice in Chile., an instance that featured opening remarks by Vice-Dean Carmen Elena Domínguez, Dean of the UC School of Social Sciences, Mariane Krause, and Deputy Director of International Research of the UC Vice-Rector for Research, Cristián Blanco. The work was commented on by international guests Martín Sabelli, academic Trial Advocacy Workshop for Harvard Law School (United States); Claire Donohue, professor at the Boston College Law Clinic (United States); and Daniel González, expert professor in litigation at the University of Buenos Aires and the Lomas de Zamora University (Argentina).

The main conclusion of the study was that in Chile there is a problem of access to justice and that the most vulnerable population has, in general, a low perception of the quality of service that is offered, generating important inequality gaps between those who can and cannot. finance a private attorney.

The research lasted three years and involved a bibliographic review, interviews with law and social work professionals who work in interdisciplinarity, both in Chile and in the United States, and the systematization of the work of the UC Law Legal Clinic itself. The main conclusion of the study was that in Chile there is a problem of access to justice and that the most vulnerable population has, in general, a low perception of the quality of service that is offered, generating important inequality gaps between those who can and cannot. finance a private attorney. An aspect that impacts the perception of service quality is interdisciplinary work since, thanks to it, highly complex problems can be comprehensively addressed from more than one discipline.

The book consists of four chapters. The first provides a diagnosis of the current situation of interdisciplinary work in practical training. The second analyzes national and international experiences of interdisciplinary work in legal contexts, the third addresses the implementation and evaluation of a pilot model of interdisciplinary care at the UC Law Clinic, while the fourth chapter proposes a model of socio-legal work for care of users and for interdisciplinary training of students and professionals. This model consists of four pillars: approaches and principles of the model; organizational aspects for interdisciplinary work; the socio-legal service with a comprehensive and user-centered perspective; and interdisciplinary practical training for lawyers,

“The implementation of this model requires concrete actions, planned at the organizational and administrative level, at the level of user care and professional training, assuming a contemporary approach to access to justice by organizations and the State itself, with a view to to significantly impact the generation of public policies through their implementation with the necessary adaptations to each organizational and territorial context”, explained Rodrigo Azócar, director of the UC Law Legal Clinic.

“The implementation of this model requires concrete actions, planned at the organizational and administrative level, at the level of user care and professional training, assuming a contemporary approach to access to justice by organizations and the State itself, with a view to to significantly impact the generation of public policies through their implementation with the necessary adaptations to each organizational and territorial context”- Rodrigo Azócar, director of the UC Law Clinic

“The importance of this work is from a practical point of view, since it provides a series of recommendations for interdisciplinary teams of organizations in legal contexts, whether public, private and third sector. From attention, a workflow with its stages is proposed, as well as the creation of a screening instrument that filters cases according to the level of complexity (low, medium, high) and work actions are proposed for each level. And from interdisciplinary training, thematic axes are proposed to work on each discipline separately and others jointly,” said Estefanía Palacios, in charge of the social care area of ​​the UC Law Legal Clinic.

International Comments
The international guests took the floor after the presentation of the study. Professor Claire Donohue, lawyer and social worker, began her intervention showing her amazement at the important interdisciplinary work carried out by the Legal Clinic of our Faculty. In her experience, she explained that in the joint practice of law and social work students at Boston College “we see how the students of each area are learning and adopting their ways of thinking and adapting it to the language of their profession.”

He added that although they usually work in a coordinated manner to achieve a successful solution, this is not always the case. “I have found this to be a hit too; It is an opportunity for each student, from their area, to analyze and come to understand the tension between both professions. We see how two professions try to enter the same context with different objectives, orientations and strategies”.

Professor Daniel González, meanwhile, explained that, since the litigation, he has been able to verify that many times the law “falls short” in providing solutions to legal problems and, therefore, “the best way to provide a comprehensive solution to clients is through interdisciplinary work. Social work, psychology and psychiatry are disciplines that allow us to better understand our clients and their contexts, which often have more relevance than the fact itself that is going to be judged in court”.

He added: “I discovered at UC a model of Legal Clinic that is worthy of praise and this publication is a kick so that in other parts of the country and the world we can see this model that is innovative in terms of professional practices where I work, which is litigation, where we do not have interdisciplinary work and, in my professional development, I have seen the importance and impact that this has”.

Finally, Martín Sabelli stated that he was “very impressed with the academic and intellectual level and the commitment that they have shown in the face of this challenge of opening the doors to access to justice in a remarkable way.”

The expert, who works on complex death penalty cases in the States, shared with the authors of the study a series of recommendations to consider in the future. In the first place, he pointed out that a fundamental factor is to establish a relationship of trust with the client, which should precede the classification of the case itself to avoid “misleading channeling”; abandon the historical figure of the lawyer as a hero, “because it is an obstacle, in my opinion, to being able to develop relationships of trust and do the job well”; understanding trauma is another challenge, since it “has very deep neurological aspects. The decision to shoot, for example, has a very important genetic load, both individual and collective”; avoid tensions within the team of professionals; and finally, He stated that in addition to putting the interests of the client at the center, “a way must be found to involve the client in decision-making and, thereby, play an important role in their own defense. That is much more difficult.”

The activity concluded with a series of questions from the public, who followed the meeting in person, from the Aquiles Portaluppi Room and also online through Zoom and the UC Law Youtube Channel.

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