Understanding Society

Tilburg University is convinced that it can contribute to solving social issues by developing and transferring knowledge and bringing together people from various disciplines and organizations.

Law clinics: From Mirror Room to European Court of Human Rights

TILT Law Clinics

Law clinics are practical research projects in which students of Tilburg Law School conduct societally relevant research for a number of months. They study issues from the practice of government organizations, the legal profession, NGOs, and commercial companies. Students often find the law clinics very valuable and educational since the clinic supplement the knowledge acquired during their studies. It gives students the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned to real problems and challenges. Thus, the law clinics link up well with the principles of the Tilburg Educational Profile.

Attention is also amply paid to such other elements from the Educational Profile as ‘critical (self-)reflection’, ‘academic and social skills, ‘personal development’, ‘responsible citizenship’, ‘connection to current issues’, etc.

Eleftherios uit Griekenland

Eleftherios Chelioudakis from Greece, who has recently graduated, soon got the taste and has already completed multiple law clinics. How does he look back on them and what exactly has been the added value for him?
“First of all, I had a lot of fun during these projects and they have also strongly contributed to my development as a person. We were required to analyse not only the legal but also the ethical aspects of the case. I find these kinds of issues really stimulating. The various participating organizations provided new perspectives every time. We got excellent feedback, both from the field and from the university."

Important personal lessons

“One of the most important things the law clinics have taught me is the self-confidence to express myself, to communicate my thoughts with clear, well-structured arguments. It helped me to function better within the teams, mainly on communicative and organizational levels. It is very important to be able to underpin your views and ideas with sound arguments.”

Value for future career
“The law clinics have proven very useful in my present job at the Fundamental Rights Agency in Austria. I have learned how, and what kind of things, to prioritize, how to directly and clearly communicate your thoughts, and, of course, that you need to produce your results subject to strict deadlines. I have also learned that a multidisciplinary perspective can add a lot of value. You can learn a lot from people from other backgrounds and specialists from other fields. It is crucial to continue to actively educate yourself by listening to others and to be open to different views.”

Mirror Room

Among the many law clinics that have taken place, the Mirror Room is a special example. It is an installation that is touring the Netherlands. By means of cameras and sensors, it generates a detailed profile of every visitor who enters. If visitors do not object, the profile is published. The initiators want to draw attention to privacy-invading technologies that analyze our emotions based on generated data over which we have little or no control, such as facial expression, heart rate, height, or weight. Ironically enough, this experiment, too, will have to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Students were therefore instructed to test the processing of these personal data against the new legislation and to suggest improvements to the privacy policy that applies to the Mirror Room.

Writing an intervention for the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

A special, but also challenging law clinic consisted of advising the ECtHR in the Kharitonov v Russia case. The issue at stake here is the illegal blocking of websites by the Russian government. The European Information Society Institute (EISi) undertook a third-party intervention (submitted a kind of advice) in this case, to bring its views to the attention of the judges. The students were requested to prepare such an intervention together with EISi’s researchers.

Katerina Psixogiou

Katarina participated in this clinic and explains why she found it so important. “I was so glad to have the opportunity to collaborate on this case. This issue of Russia blocking thousands of websites is very problematic. What will stay with me from this clinic is that we must continue to defend the rights we are enjoying at the moment and that we just cannot take them for granted. I thought it was great to actually fight for our rights as part of this clinic, with the legal tools available to us. In this way, we can have an impact in our digitalizing world. The law clinics teach you to collaborate constructively and to gain experience in ‘the real world’!”