Preventative lawyering, therapeutic jurisprudence and relational lawyering: Practical application in legal practice and justice education

Author: Jonathan Campbell

ISSN: 1996-2193
Affiliations: BA LLB LLM, Associate Professor and Director, Rhodes University Law Clinic
Source: Stellenbosch Law Review, Volume 34 Issue 1, 2023, p. 76 – 100


The traditional focus of both legal practice and legal education is on the substantive and procedural law itself, and how it applies to a set of facts presented. This the practitioner or law lecturer commonly calls “the case”: whether it be a real-life case in legal practice, a decided case in the law reports, or a hypothetical case presented to students in a problem-solving exercise. What is frequently overlooked or under-emphasised is that there are people behind every case, who bring into the lawyer-client relationship their own peculiar history, personality, hopes, fears, economic realities, home and work contexts, and much more; and that these personal factors often impact significantly on the issues, both legal and non-legal, that are presented by the client to the lawyer. Indeed, these personal factors can have a significant bearing on how the lawyer advises and represents the client, and so to discount them could amount to a manifest disservice to the client.

This article considers in turn the interrelated concepts of preventative lawyering, therapeutic jurisprudence and relational lawyering, which have in common a recognition of the importance of giving attention to the human factor in context: to consider the need to counsel the client to optimise arrangements and minimise risk; to practise in a humane and empathetic manner, giving attention to psycho-social as well as legal issues, and with a view to promoting the general wellbeing of the client; to attend to building rapport and trust with the client in order to establish a mature professional relationship, with consequent improved outcomes for the client. The article also stresses the importance of educating law students and practitioners on the values and skills needed to promote these objectives, with a particular focus on the formation of professional identity.