Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Pro bono work and social justice
Pro bono work and social justice

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

3 Social justice

Social justice is a difficult concept to define. It combines equity, fairness, and a commitment to social action, focusing on equal justice not just in our legal system but in all areas of society.

Described image
Figure 5 Social justice word cloud 

The Oxford Dictionary of Education defines ‘social justice’ as ‘a term which refers to the good of the whole community, where that is taken to include both the good of each and the good of all, in an acknowledgement that one depends on the other’ (Wallace, 2015).

This is further developed in the definition by the Center for Economic and Social Justice:

Social justice encompasses economic justice. Social justice is the virtue which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions. In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Social justice also imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others, at whatever level of the ‘Common Good’ in which we participate, to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development.

(Center for Economic and Social Justice, 2017)

Social justice is not only concerned with what is just for the individual but what is just for society as a whole. Everyone should have equal rights, opportunities, privileges and protections, from the poorest to the richest in our society; but how do we define ‘just’ and ‘equal’ and who is responsible for ensuring that society is a just and fair place? This is complex and challenging.

Examples of social justice include:

  • the universal right to vote
  • free public education
  • equal opportunity to employment
  • welfare benefits.

Social justice encompasses economic, political, social and legal rights for all; we will all have different definitions of social justice. Clinical legal education can address social justice problems by seeking to improve the lives and wellbeing of people.

Activity 6 What does social justice mean for you?

Timing: You should allow yourself 1 hour to do this activity.
  • i.Is it a lawyer’s job to work for justice?
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
  • ii.Should clinical legal education focus on justice?
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
  • iii.What pro bono programmes would you like to see created, or be involved in?
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Comment

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. If you have a good idea for a new pro bono initiative, please do contact the Open Justice team at open-justice@open.ac.uk.