Making the case for autoethnographic exploration of law clinic supervisory practice

"We spend most of our life in a university, but rarely do we ever focus our ethnographic and critical eye on our own practices" (Ellis, 1996)

Autoethnography is a contemporary, and somewhat controversial (Campbell, 2018), genre of qualitative, reflexive, autobiographical research which uses the researcher as subject (Ellis et al., 2011; Haynes, 2011).  Autoethnography embraces subjectivity in order to create “ground-level, intimate, and close-up perspectives on experience” (Adams et al., 2015, p.23).  Despite its growing popularity in qualitative social science research, autoethnography is relatively uncommon in clinical legal education scholarship.

Supervision is an acknowledged “hallmark” (Evans, 2017, p.130; Giddings, 2013, p.41) of clinical legal education. Supervisors are said to be “central to harnessing the rich possibilities” (Evans, 2017, p.134) of the clinic environment. However, despite the recognised value of supervision, research into the supervisory role remains underdeveloped (Evans, 2017).

This paper brings autoethnography and clinical supervision together. Drawing on the findings of my professional doctorate, I will make the case for autoethnographic exploration of law clinic supervisory practice. I will argue that autoethnography can contribute seldom-seen insights into the identity, emotions, and experiences of individual supervisors.