Sunday, July 16, 2017
“Come see me in my office when we get back,” Mr. Becker said to me at my first lunch with him. “I’ve got some work for you.”
“Yes, sir.” I was thrilled because I had been hunting these invitations. I’d been with that century-old firm for just a week, chomping at the bit for a chance to prove myself anew after a long rookie year of discouragement and failure.
I’d fled my first Big Law firm when they and I came to the clear, mutual, finally explicit realization that we were a bad fit. I thought they’d hired me under false pretenses then followed through with poor management. They thought I was immature, out of my depth, and not worth their investment. We both may have been right, but for sure I wanted to be in a courtroom and out in the world. For sure, they weren’t letting me out of my office or the Federal Register.
So I was on the market again too soon. I put on a brave face and some false confidence to convince other firms that it made perfect sense for me to be seeking a new job eighteen months out of law school at the ripe old age of twenty-five.
A couple of firms bought my ruse, and one, Watkins & Eager in my home state of Mississippi, welcomed me warmly. They taught me how to be a lawyer. At the interview, I told them I most wanted to litigate and hadn’t even been able to attend a single deposition since I passed the bar, much less take one. Rebecca Wiggs, a partner in the firm, laughed at me, “What are you doing this afternoon? I can make your dreams come true.”
They also explained - to my undying relief - that they had no billable hour quotas and hadn’t since 1895. “Do the work on your desk. Everything else will take care of itself.” The associates did the work for clients and the cases, not for their own desperate billable hour salvation. That just seemed right.
Thus it was that my new firm hired me to do exactly what I declared that I wanted to do. Now I had to do it, but that brave face and false confidence were rooted in the brutally real pain of being asked to leave my first job. That’s not how careers are supposed to start, even if I had already been sending out resumes for months.
My new office overlooked the governor’s mansion in Jackson, and it was next door to Mr. Goodman, the grandson of the firm’s founder, our chief, who was then in his seventies. The family firm had over sixty lawyers, and I was the newest and youngest.
He and Mr. Becker, the patriarchs, took me to lunch. These were Southern gentlemen lawyers of a fading era: genteel, unfailingly polite, honest, practical, charming, ambitious, erudite, attentive, and calm. They were progressive in their ways. Mr. Goodman’s aunt had been one of the first women admitted to the Mississippi Bar. (I found her penciled notes around a paragraph I needed in the firm library one day, in a reporter from the Thirties that still smelled like her cigarette smoke.)
Mr. Becker had been with the firm nearly as long as Mr. Goodman, and he’d been one of Mississippi’s preeminent trial lawyers for forty years before he called me in for my new matter. His office was a gallery, and half the art was his own work. He’d taken up folk painting in his sixties, but he’d been a collector for far longer. I’d heard tales that the firm had been alarmed at the furniture he’d had shipped back from Europe to decorate at the firm’s expense. My wife and I have an original Becker on our wall to this day. He painted it after giving us a tour of his grand gallery of a house with more Spanish wine that we realized we were drinking until he ushered out to prepare for a dinner party.
Ultimately, I would spend long hours with Mr. Becker over those years in the firm. I tried my very first case with him, which we lost. He might have expected that result in advance, which might be why he made me first chair, but that’s a story for another day. That first visit to his office is the one I remember best.
He handed me a file and told me about the case. It was a medical malpractice case, and we represented the doctor. He had a summary judgment hearing coming up and wanted me to argue it.
Honestly, my young professional dream was coming true. But don’t forget that brave face, false confidence, and painful failure. “Mr. Becker, I’m happy to handle this, but I feel like I should tell you that I haven’t done this before, in case you need someone who knows what they’re doing.”
He was already looking at another letter or his calendar and glanced up at me with a little irritation. “Go do it, lad.”
With that vote of confidence, I wandered out into the hallway with my first hearing in my hands. Rule 56 rushed back into my mind: no genuine issue of material fact, entitled to judgment as a matter of law. I knew I’d need to learn the standards for professional liability in Mississippi, and I knew where to research and how to write my argument. I knew the theory, the procedure, and the stakes. I had a gilded brain educated at fine institutions. But I was beating back panic about appearing alone in court for the first time.
I stood in the hall, a little dazed. Then Ms. Wiggs walked by, she who couldn’t wait to send me to her depositions. “Hey, Jeff, how are you doing? Getting settled in?”
“Yes. Thanks. But Becker just have me a summary judgment motion, and I don’t know where the courthouse is.”
She laughed at me again and glanced at her watch. “Do you have time for a walk?”
“Let’s go.” She didn’t literally take my hand, but nearly. We walked the five or six blocks to the Hinds County Courthouse. She greeted the bailiffs and deputies and introduced me. She pointed at the clerk’s office and asked me who had my case. I told her the judge, and she pointed me up the stairs. She pushed open the door to the empty courtroom, walked around the bar to counsels’ table on the left, and put her hands on the back of the first chair.
“You sit here.” She pointed at the lectern in the well. “When it’s your turn, you stand there.”
It was a beautiful, generous act of mercy.
I don’t remember what came of the hearing or the case. I remember having tunnel vision. I was keenly aware of a judge and an opponent. I’m sure I argued from my notes on a legal pad, but that’s about it. Probably there were clerks and bailiffs, other parties and clients, but my brain couldn’t process them. No one came to see my debut, but that’s probably for the best. I did just fine and didn’t act, look, or feel too stupid, after it was over.
Whatever the outcome, those conversations gave me more applied legal education than I ever had in a single day.
“Go do it, lad.” Becker gave me a shot of encouragement, a dose of professional confidence, a reminder of humility, and a proper dose of fear. He trusted me with his work.
“You sit here.” Wiggs gave me the great gift of orientation. I could focus on my argument and my preparation without worrying about literally being lost or looking like an outright fool. She told me that she always tried to visit a new courtroom and watch a new judge before having to argue there. It’s basic, brilliant, wise lawyering.
Like many of our students now, I graduated with great credentials and deep knowledge of the law but without the practical ability to do much with it. Watkins & Eager taught me how to be a lawyer, by inviting me to practice law.
I carry these lessons with me in clinical teaching. It was excellent pedagogy. An empowering supervising attorney trusted me with an assignment that he knew I could handle, even if I didn’t, and it was non-directive to an extreme. Another empowering attorney caught me in the fall and helped me prepare and understand my role, always instilling wisdom and knowledge, answering my questions, without taking the work away from me. With grace and generosity, she prepared me to be a better lawyer the next day and the next day after that, without embarrassment or condescension.
They taught me how to practice. They also taught me how to teach rookie professionals how to practice. They trusted and taught me then, like I trust and teach my clinical students now. From Jackson to Los Angeles, those fundamental lawyer lessons ring true. These are great outlines for experiential learning: Sit here. Stand there. Go do it.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Christine M. Scartz: An Open Letter to My Recently-Graduated Students As they Study for the Bar Exam
A guest post from Prof. Christine M. Scartz of the University of Georgia:
An Open Letter to My Recently-Graduated Students As they Study for the Bar Exam
Dear Clinic Alumni in the Class of 2017,
Heartfelt congratulations to you! As my own father told me when I graduated, no matter where you go from here, no one can ever take away from you the great accomplishment of earning your J.D. degree.
Your sights are set on new goals now - passing the Bar exam and launching your careers. As the summer days speed by, you may have several questions on your mind. Will you be able to absorb all of the knowledge required to pass the Bar? And if the knowledge goes in, will you be able to get it all out in a coherent fashion on the exam? Perhaps most importantly of all you may be asking yourself, if I pass the exam and choose to practice law, am I ready to be a lawyer?
As your former clinic professor, I have the answer to that last, important question. You are ready. You will find your way to a practice where you will use your head and your heart to help all sorts of folks through all sorts of difficult times. You will be bright lights of compassionate lawyering, whether you take up the mantle of social justice work, or take on the responsibilities of representing corporate clients with global-scale expectations.
I am absolutely confident in my answer. I watched you master unfamiliar law, combine it with your clients’ stories, and advocate effectively in front of veteran judges. I observed you build relationships with clients wholly different from yourselves, and treat pro se opposing parties with respect and dignity. I witnessed the growth of your self-assurance in your interviewing, negotiation and courtroom skills, as well as the deepening of your conviction in the rightness of your choice of profession.
I am confident in my answer for some perhaps counterintuitive reasons as well. I stood with you when you figuratively stamped your feet in frustration, and when you literally shed tears of sadness and anger. I observed you make mistakes, and drown in disappointment. I witnessed your hurt when your generosity was rebuffed by clients, and your hard work was rejected by judges. Then, I saw you rebound with renewed energy for doing better. You are ready.
My confidence in my answer also comes from having seen you participate in thoughtful discussions of case law, literature, and documentaries. I listened to you offer thoughts and opinions on difficult subjects that were sometimes inseparable from your personal histories and current realities. I witnessed you display sympathy, empathy and understanding to your classmates, people who may have been strangers to you a few weeks previously, and some of whom you will never cross paths with again.
Finally, I know you are ready because even as you were my students, so too were you my teachers. Some of you were in the first class I taught upon my return to clinical teaching. To you I say thank you for your patience, kindness and enthusiasm as my excitement about our work often led me to lurch about disjointedly in the classroom and the clinic office. Some of you were kind enough to “repeat” the clinic for a second semester. To you I say thank you for the gift of your time, which helped me believe in myself as a professor and in the value of our collaborative efforts. To all of you I say thank you for your questions, suggestions, innovative ideas, and especially your honest criticisms, as these helped move the clinic work forward as well as deepen my commitment to academic pursuits that will benefit the students and clients who come through the clinic door in semesters to come.
You are ready to be lawyers. I cannot wait to see where you go from here.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Clinical Faculty Position
The Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Description: The Moritz College of Law invites applications for the position of Assistant Clinical Professor of Law in its Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic (EBLC), to start in late 2017. The EBLC professor has primary responsibility for directing and teaching the Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic, which provides third-year law students with the opportunity to learn lawyering skills by representing entrepreneurs and their start-up businesses. EBLC students typically work with clients on all phases of starting a business, including client intake, entity formation, legal business planning, and contract drafting (including employment and independent contractor contracts). When relevant for the client, students also learn how to protect the intellectual property of a business. The EBLC’s clinical professor will have several areas of responsibility, including 1) supervising law students who represent clients under the Ohio Supreme Court's student practice rule 2) classroom teaching of lawyering skills, 3) engaging with the local and regional entrepreneurial community, and 4) participating in the life and governance of the College of Law.
We will consider all applicants; however, we prefer candidates with significant experience in representing entrepreneurs and early-stage companies. Candidates also should have an excellent academic record that demonstrates potential for clinical teaching and preparation of clinical educational materials. Candidates should be admitted to the Ohio Bar or eligible for admission in Ohio. The starting salary range will be $78,000 - $81,000 for a 12-month contract; full University fringe benefits are provided as well. The ideal starting date will be November 15, or as soon thereafter as possible. The successful candidate will begin teaching in January 2018.
Application Instructions: A resume, references, and cover letter should be submitted to Professor Paul Rose, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, 55 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210. Send e-mail applications to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications will be reviewed immediately and will be accepted until the position is filled; preference will be given to applications received before September 1st.
The Ohio State University is committed to establishing a culturally and intellectually diverse environment, encouraging all members of our learning community to reach their full potential. The Ohio State University is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, or protected veteran status.
About Columbus: The Ohio State University campus is located in Columbus, the capital city of Ohio. Columbus is the center of a rapidly growing and diverse metropolitan area with a population of over 1.5 million. The area offers a wide range of very affordable housing, many cultural and recreational opportunities, excellent schools, and a strong economy based on government as well as service, transportation, and technology industries (see http://columbusregion.com/). Columbus and its many suburbs have consistently been rated as one of the Top U.S. places for quality of life. Additional information about the Columbus area is available at http://www.columbus.org.
Call for Panelists
Innovations in Teaching Access to Justice Across the Law School Curriculum
2018 AALS Annual Meeting – Open Source Program
Friday, January 5, 2018, 8:30 – 10:15 a.m.
We invite applications to speak on a panel about how law school faculty can innovate in the classroom to create future attorneys who are concerned about access to justice and playing a role in solving the access to justice crisis. Each panelist will speak about a recent experiment incorporating access to justice into the law school curriculum. We hope to identify an additional panelist who has (or will in the Fall 2017 semester) integrated access to justice concepts in a first-year or core law school course.
The program will begin with a roundtable discussion of each panelist’s recent efforts to highlight and incorporate access to justice in their own classrooms. The program will continue with a facilitated discussion that will allow audience members to share and develop their own classroom experiments, including ideas to incorporate access to justice in core and first-year courses. The planned panelists are Anna Carpenter (Tulsa), Lauren Sudeall Lucas (Georgia State), Victor Quintanilla (Indiana), and Colleen Shanahan (Temple).
To be considered as a panelist, please email a short (1-2 paragraph) statement of interest and description of your recent or upcoming effort to teach access to justice in the classroom to Colleen Shanahan (email@example.com) by September 1.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Clinical Professor Sarah Sherman-Stokes was recently featured in the Washington Post offering her opinion on the devastating impact of new policies on immigration judges. The Trump Administration's stance on undocumented individuals has led to an explosion in the number of cases. Immigration judges already carry exceedingly large dockets, nearly three times the amount of district court judges trying civil cases. These judges are now losing critical training conferences essential to ensuring fair trials for noncitizens.
The full piece is available here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/immigration-judges-were-always-overworked-now-theyll-be-untrained-too/2017/07/11/e71bb1fa-4c93-11e7-a186-60c031eab644_story.html?utm_term=.348ef2c965ee
Thursday, July 6, 2017
From the organizers:
2017 Northwest Clinical Law Conference
On behalf of the NWCLC 2017 Planning Committee, we are pleased to provide details regarding the 2017 Northwest Clinical Law Conference, to be heldat Sleeping Lady.
Our theme this year will be "From Competence to Social Justice: The Role of Legal Clinics in Forming Professional Identity and Values." Below are a request for proposals with additional details regarding the theme and our call for presenters. Please note that we are also seeking proposals from clinic administrators in hopes of having a separate conference track for administrative professionals who wish to attend. Proposals can be sent to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for distribution to the Planning Committee and are due by .
Also attached is a flyer with registration details. The registration and payment deadline is email@example.com).and your completed registration form and fees can be returned to Geri Sturgill (
We look forward to seeing your proposals and to a great conference later this year!
Saturday, July 1, 2017
If you are closely tracking the ongoing federal legislative efforts to repeal and replace the Accountable Care Act (ACA), you might find interesting my recent piece, U.S. Senate Unveils Health Care Bill Designed to Dismantle the ACA. A huge thanks to the Oxford Human Rights Hub for publishing my take on the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 and the formidable procedural and substantive obstacles the bill faces in the United States Senate. The Hub also published my post, How an ACA Repeal Would Devastate Appalachia, as part of a three-part series on American health care reform this Spring. I intend to continue to watch--and write about--federal legislative attempts to dismantle the ACA over the summer and will provide links to new posts as they as they go live on this blog site.
Friday, June 30, 2017
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
2017 Southern Clinical Conference
Thursday, June 15, 2017
The AALS Section on Africa is pleased to announce a Call for Papers from which 2-3 additional presenters will be selected for the section’s program to be held during the AALS 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego on “Children’s Rights and Responsibilities in Africa.” The program is co-sponsored by the AALS Section on Children and the Law and the AALS Section on International Human Rights. The call for papers seeks authors of published or unpublished papers that consider the rights and responsibilities of children on the African continent.
Background: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the history of the world. A look at the drafting history of the CRC indicates that African countries were not proportionally represented in the drafting process, arguably due to a lack of resources and a dearth of diplomatic representatives in post-colonial Africa. Although some feared that the North-South divide in the drafting process would prevent the universal acceptance of the treaty, the fact is that the continent was strongly represented among the first countries to sign and ratify the treaty.
African countries did not stop there. They criticized the CRC for not going far enough in protecting children’s rights and taking into consideration African cultural values (such as the notion that children also have concurrent responsibilities) and issues, such as apartheid, child marriage, child labor, child trafficking, children in armed conflict, and harmful cultural practices. African nations converted this criticism into the first regional children’s treaty, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Africa also is home to the first nation, the Republic of South Africa, to include many of the principles of the CRC and the African Children’s Charter in the nation’s constitution.
Despite the leadership that the African continent has offered in developing an international legal framework for children’s rights and responsibilities, the consequences of colonial occupation has led to a perception that children’s rights have not been recognized in many areas, ranging from gender discrimination to education to economic security and more. This call for papers is intended to advance the dialogue related to both the creation and fulfillment of children’s rights and responsibilities, especially as they relate to children in Africa.
Thus, the Section on Africa invites any full-time faculty member of an AALS member school who has authored a published or unpublished paper, is writing a paper, or is interested in writing a paper on this topic to submit a 1- or 2-page proposal to the Chair of the Section by August 31, 2017. The Executive Committee will review all submissions and select proposals for presentation as part of our AALS 2018 Program.
Please share this call for papers widely and direct all submissions and questions to the Chair of the AALS Section on Africa:
Professor Warren Binford
Willamette University College of Law
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
I registered for the conference as a bit of continuing education. In the Pepperdine Community Justice Clinic, our students and I counsel nonprofits and NGOs in corporate and policy matters, so I seized an opportunity to learn more about the nonprofit ecosystem, the market, and its trends. The 501(c)onference is a gathering of world-class nonprofits and nonprofit leaders in Southern California, to exchange ideas, network, and improve collaborations. Like most lawyers and most academics I spend most of my time with other lawyers and academics, so it was nice to break away and see the work from the clients’ point of view. (This had the double benefit of new insight for the great boards on which I get to serve: Counsel to Secure Justice, Medicine for Humanity, The Abundant Table, and the Clinical Legal Education Association.)
The time away from the ivory silo was refreshing and useful, and that was my first professional lesson for the week. All we lawyers should spend time with our clients in their markets, especially when they do not need us. We learn more about them so can serve them better. All we academics should spend time in the fields we study and teach to ground our scholarship and classes in lived experience.
At this brief conference, a rising energy and resilient optimism pervaded the conversations. Everyone acknowledged the conflict and tension of our present political and social anxieties. People presented bleak, striking data about the economy, communities, and policies. Speakers identified troubling trends rooted in systems and cycles, but there was little despair in the room. Instead, there was a calm, fierce, determined air to stay at work in new and better ways. Plenty of people spoke of resistance, but it is a resistance against division, inequity, and deceit.
That spirit infused righteous talk of alliance. We talk a lot about collaboration, but this deeper discussion of alliance meant more than projects in common. It meant more than MOUs. Alliance calls for mutuality, humility, and shared burdens in a righteous cause. Even as these organizations may vie for the same grants and funders, they were all speaking to the need to join forces in defense of our social contracts and the community ligaments than bind us together.
Those conversations invited talk of innovation and new ideas to fund and sustain organizations and their work. Some brilliant panelists discussed the emerging trends of social-impact investing, B-Corps, pay-for-performance, and other market-driven social enterprises. This is an important new trend that we must explore and improve. No one does this work for the money, but money is necessary for the work. Angel investors, equities, bonds, and other start-up financing mechanisms promise new means of big money for socially responsible enterprises who can find the right mix of markets and economic development. Some of us, however, had good counterpoint discussions about the temptations of profit and the reality of issues that defy markets. Sometimes folks can get rich while doing great good in the world. Very often, social needs and solutions will not respond to market fixes and will require the generosity of donors and the tenacity of scrappy activists whose work is not measured in profit.
These conversations stood in stark contrast to a meeting of Black Lives Matter that my family and I attended earlier in the week. BLM intentionally and explicitly is not part of the traditional nonprofit system or economy. As it fights for empowerment and reform, it takes a radically different, disciplined strategy. The nonprofit conference was in gleaming, corporate quarters in spaces built for teaching and learning. BLM met in a well-worn, hard-working community center covered in local art, a place with sharp edges made warm, hospitable, and loving by a fierce commitment to inclusion and dignity. BLM opts for deep, patient community organizing and development built on relationships, teaching, dialog, and amplified voices. It is not profitable and does not seek to be.
And this contrast informs another great lesson for me this week. I believe in All-of-the-Above, each of these extraordinary people and organizations seeking the light in their respective worlds and calling others to join their alliances. From the veteran community organizers in Inglewood to the rich foundations Santa Monica, from the scrappy new nonprofit laboring without an office to the global NGOs who can call on millions, their work all bends toward the dignity of every person. To seek the dignity of the oppressed and to empower the poor is to love everyone, including ourselves. We need them all.
To empower the vulnerable people on the margins of our society and economy is to strengthen all the bonds on which we all rely. This morning, we saw again the great and awful cost when we allow those bonds to fray and snap. While we gathered in conference, a man took intentional, deadly aim at our representatives, our Congress. He chose a moment when they were actually engaged in friendly, healthy, democratic, bipartisan, American government, even in an era of harsh polarization and distrust. Just hours later, another person unleashed death on co-workers in another workplace shooting that we can only ever seem to call senseless.
This violence is a failure of many things, and we must own them together if we going to resist the breach of our social contract, our commitments and reliance on each other. If we cannot trust each other, then the center will not hold.
So I end this reflection returning to work as a teaching lawyer (or a practicing professor). Our communities and commerce depend on the rule of law. The rule of law depends on our social contract, these deep commitments to each other. These commitments depend on trust, and trust depends on dignity. Everyone's dignity depends on the dignity of everyone else, and that mutuality is under assault.
Fundamentally, this must be the work of lawyers. We must guard and defend the conditions necessary to thrive in liberty and peace.
So we must teach our students accordingly. Violence is a failure of our morality and care. Rampant deceit is a failure of our discipline to hold ourselves accountable. Injustice thrives when our alliances degrade. The Republic will fall when we abandon our mutuality. This is the jurisprudence we need to teach and study. This is how community emerges from chaos.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
The National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles (NLG-LA) will honor Prof. Annie Lai at its Annual Awards Banquet on Sunday, June 11.
The co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) at UCI Law, Prof. Lai teaches and practices in the areas of civil and immigrant rights. Among the many matters that Prof. Lai has worked with students on in the IRC is a constitutional challenge to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s worksite immigration raids in federal district court in Arizona. The IRC is serving as lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
More recently, Prof. Lai helped draft a letter, signed by 292 legal scholars, addressed to President Donald Trump that asserted the President’s threat to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities is unconstitutional. Prof. Lai frequently partners with grassroots organizations on local policy initiatives—she was part of the effort to obtain a far-reaching sanctuary policy in the City of Santa Ana and clarified federal funding concerns along the way. Together with students in the IRC, Prof. Lai provided comment to the Santa Ana City Council regarding a legal defense fund for detained immigrants facing deportation.
“I feel incredibly honored and humbled to receive a recognition like this from the National Lawyers Guild,” said Prof. Lai. “We are living in a time when bold and creative lawyering for social justice is not just an ambition, but an imperative. The National Lawyers Guild is an organization that has long stood for those very values.”
“We are thrilled to be awarding Professor Lai, who exemplifies everything the Guild looks for in movement lawyers: someone who has committed their career to supporting the movement, vindicating the rights of the people, and sharing their passion and knowledge to uplift other advocates,” said Ameena Mirza Qazi, executive director of the NLG-LA.
The National Lawyers Guild seeks to unite lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.
The NLG-LA’s annual awards banquet will celebrate the guild’s 80th anniversary and will take place on Sunday, June 11, at 5:00 p.m. at the Pasadena Hilton Hotel. For more info, please visit nlg-la.org.
Assistant Dean for Communications
Phone: (949) 824-3063, mobile (949) 945-4506
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Relations Manager
Phone: (949) 824-0385
Email address: email@example.com
Thursday, June 1, 2017
To steal from the words of our most recent AALS Clinical Conference theme, these are definitely tumultuous times. For me, it is a daily battle to read the news and not go back to bed. Stories of clinicians working to make a difference in their communities both in and out of the law school environment, provide inspiration and motivation to keep fighting another day.
Though the ending of this chapter is not yet written, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is already an inspiration. After more than twenty years as a clinical teacher and scholar, she is now running for Congress in her home state of New Mexico. Below, in her own words, you will find a piece of her story.
1. Along with having been dean of your law school, you have many years of clinical teaching experience; how has clinical teaching informed your decision to run and why is it important to you to run for office now? (correction, I was associate dean not dean--ASL)
As a clinical teacher, I worked on many of the issues and challenges our communities in New Mexico are facing. Our work was rooted in helping the overlooked and underserved communities of Central New Mexico. I have had the privilege of meeting with tenants of run-down trailer parks who, among their numerous grievances, have been deeply impacted by the quality of their living environment and have few remedies. I worked with students on devastating cases where clients who were in abusive situations had few options. I have met mothers who lost a day’s pay each time they had to go to court on their restraining order, custody petition, or divorce. I have met with families devastated by the effects of a sawmill on the air quality in their community.
My involvement with community while I was at the law school culminated with an encounter with a woman begging on the street in Guanajuato, Mexico. I gave her a bag of tamales; she looked at me with deep gratitude and told me that she would share them. I discovered that she was undocumented in Mexico, from Guatemala. She had fled an abusive home life and was happier living on the streets in Guanajuato than she had been in Guatemala. My perspective changed. I felt a strong need to get involved more deeply with my community and to help confront challenges facing survivors at the intersection of immigration, poverty and domestic violence.
I retired from the law school at the University of New Mexico after 27 years of law teaching to become the executive director of Enlace Comunitario, a non-profit that serves all victims of domestic violence and conducts outreach to Latino immigrants in Central New Mexico. I was very gratified and satisfied with our progress until the current administration came into power. In one election, I knew that everything had changed for our communities. The terror among all immigrants coupled with the activities of ICE after the President’s Executive Order and the Director of Homeland Security memo purporting to roll back limitations on the discretion of ICE officials was alarming. Using my clinical skills, I worked with allies to try to convince the New Mexico Supreme Court that it has inherent authority to protect access to justice. I co-founded a group called “Defend Our Neighbors” to advocate for the rights of all who might be affected by the current administration.
These advocacy roles were noticed by others who encouraged me to amplify my voice for others and to use the skills, knowledge and values I had developed as a clinical law teacher in Congress. I am very excited by the opportunity to serve in Congress at this time.
2. What skill(s) or lesson(s) from your clinical teaching do you think will be most applicable to life as a Congresswoman?
As my last academic project before I left law teaching, I worked with Deborah Maranville, Lisa Bliss, and Carrie Kass to co-edit the book, Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World. The book brought innovative and effective law teachers and administrators from around the country to discuss how legal education should change to adapt to changing realities. The book stressed developing goals and outcomes and focusing on teaching and programmatic strategies for students to learn to achieve those outcomes. My biggest take-away from 27 years of law teaching and various roles in administration is based on those two large points. As a congresswoman, I will be open to addressing changing realities and I will be focused on fighting for the outcomes we need for our communities to thrive: community and economic development, health care for all, and social justice and equality.
3. How will your clinical experience help you better serve the needs of constituents? Advocate for them in Congress?
Throughout my clinical experience, I have had the chance to work with people from all walks of life. I have developed a passion for problem- solving and bringing people together around a cause. As a clinical teacher, I have opened doors to public service for students and opportunity to the clients that we served. My approach emphasizes accessibility, which will produce effective constituent services. As an advocate, I will not simply offer sound bites, but will work to deliver progress on the many causes I’ve worked on throughout my career. I will be a powerful voice in Congress for the under-served communities I have worked with, sharing the stories I have learned and bringing the force of the law, facts, and data to bring about change.
4. The current political climate is challenging. What parts of clinical teaching will help you make difficult decisions in Congress and help you explain the issues and your decisions to your constituents?
The challenging political climate is one of the reasons why I am running. After years of working with communities who do not have a voice in the policy prescriptions that are intended to solve the problems that afflict them, I feel now is the time to best use my skills and training to champion this community in Washington. My deep knowledge of the Constitution, federal laws and public policy, and our community is an asset in standing up in opposition to the current administration’s backwards policies. Whether it be the rollback of our civil liberties, access to health care or climate change policies, this administration has chosen ignore the people’s voices. I will communicate well and often with my constituents so that they are always aware of how federal issues will impact our community and will constantly seek their input on the issues.
5. What is one piece of advice you wish someone had shared when you were beginning your teaching career?
Prepare yourself to pursue your passions in teaching, in scholarship and in service and everything will fall into place. Even if you don’t achieve the ultimate goals you seek, the journey will be fascinating and rewarding.
6. Tell us a little about your path. When you were a law student or while you were teaching clinics would you have imagined someday running for Congress?
My story starts even earlier than law school. I told my high school counselor that I was interested in the law. He replied, “That is great, because you are so smart, you will make a great legal secretary.” I have definitely exceeded the expectations prescribed to me as a woman, as a Latina, and as someone from a rural, working class community in New Mexico. I wake up every morning in awe that I served as a law professor for 27 years, eight of which I spent as Associate Dean, and as a nonprofit executive director for three, and that today I have the privilege of running to represent New Mexicans in Congress. I am proud to have had a career that has prepared me with the knowledge, skills and values to do a great job for my home state.
7. What would you suggest to someone who wants to make a difference in their community but isn’t in a position to run for office? How can other clinical teachers best help, including those without live-client clinics?
I believe all of us need to be engaged and informed. We need to use the privilege of our education (formal and informal) and our positions, whatever those positions might be, in service of those without privilege. Clinical teachers can insure that students see the social justice implications of the work they do. They can help students understand the “foot of oppression” that impacts people of color, low income individuals, and those with little power in our society. Through these lenses, students can use their talents and their resources to address the problems of poverty and inequality while in clinic and after they leave the law school.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Sunday, May 28, 2017
This Fall semester, in addition to teaching my Penn State Law clinical students, I will teach Professional Responsibility. When I was in law school, if memory serves, it was called "Legal Ethics". I really wish I could reclaim that course name.
Professional Responsibility is the industry standard now--I get it. The codes of conduct in most states use some version of that language in their titles. Pennsylvania, for example, has Rules of Professional Conduct, not Rules of Legal Ethics.
But the casebook for my course is called The Law and Ethics of Lawyering (my own emphasis added). And it happens to be the same casebook used in the Legal Ethics course I took long ago and far away, albeit a new edition. I know that for sure because I saved that book. It's sitting on my office bookshelf beside the new casebook I'll soon pore over to prepare to teach the course for the first time. So what? Why am I fixated on the word "ethics" as it relates to this course?
I think our students could benefit from a little more education on ethics. Knowledge of the sources and norms about ethical obligations, a humanistic sense of right and wrong, is fundamental to the legal profession. We owe it to future lawyers to engage them in the study of the underpinnings of our profession's ideals about the outer limits of acceptable human behavior and our systemic regulation of it. To my mind, "professional responsibility" conceptually strikes me as just a few shades lighter than "malpractice avoidance". We must be better than that. Lawyers must not simply avoiding bad behavior. We must cultivate and thus deeply understand good--ethical--behavior.
It's a bit late to rename my course, but I do plan to re-brand it, class by class and student by student. Maybe I'll discover this is is semantics; a distinction without a difference, once I'm engaged in the course itself. Stay tuned . . . .
Monday, May 22, 2017
Pepperdine University School of Law
Director of Externships and Pro Bono Programs and
Adjunct Professor for Academic Success and Bar Preparation
The Director of Externship and Pro Bono Programs responsibilities will include direction of the School of Law's externship program, including extensive student advising, teaching in diverse modes and settings, extensive communication with field placements and supervisors, and records management. The pro bono program direction will involve significant student advising and counseling, recruiting and creating pro bono placements and opportunities, and records management. These responsibilities are anticipated to comprise approximately one-half to three-fourths of the successful applicant's total responsibilities.
The Adjunct Professor for Academic Success and Bar Preparation responsibilities will involve teaching responsibilities and student office hours in the law school's academic success and bar preparation courses, and additional responsibilities for developing, coordinating, and implementing a program that supports the School of Law's commitment to academic success in law school and success on the bar exam. These responsibilities are anticipated to comprise approximately one-fourth to one-half of the successful applicant's total responsibilities.
The successful applicant will report to the School of Law's Director of Clinical Education and to the Associate Dean for Student Success, will work closely with the Clinical Program Manager, will closely direct and monitor more than 100 students per term in externships and pro bono practice, and will supervise ASP and Bar Exam Workshop student teaching fellows.
Friday, May 19, 2017
I’m struggling. But in truth, it’s been that way for quite some time, since foot touched ground in this land of wood and water.
They say there are different Jamaicas, and I no doubt know this to be true. Aptly capturing this sentiment, photographer and creator, Peter Dean Rickards wrote “We are Jamaicans living within and without cultural control. We are at once proud nationalists and critics of our country of origin. A country known for its extremes. A place packed with originality and creative energy that continues to flourish despite the current socio-political state that has removed the personal pride of many. An island filled with beauty unsurpassed and ugliness that would make a rat puke.”
In all honesty, I’m not sure which Jamaica I will leave with in my mind.
The paradox of life here is so astounding -- splendor always brushing up against pain. Fear hovering on the periphery, worry right inside the line of sight; eclipsed momentarily when depth returns to breath and light comes pouring through. Joy heightened by anxiety. Which of these is more genuine? Is one real simply because the other exists? Tangibility through co-occurrence?
Sometimes I’m surprised to learn the new contours of a mind that I believed I knew so well. I thought I had managed my fear only to realize that the fear had often managed me. Ugliness is sneaky that way. Making life myopic. Narrow. Tight. Restricting the range of possibilities imaginable. Causing me to only see a landscape of corruption, chaos and systems failing to function. Moments when I can only focus on Dennis’ nephew, shot ten times in front of a KFC; the grit, filth and cacophony of ramshackle tin neighborhoods; the boy in the taxi cab, shot on his way to school, whose killer could not be prosecuted for lack of evidence; the electric current surging through a frenzied crowd as they run toward and not away from the fresh blood that flows in the street after a police officer was killed with his own gun; the sounds of a neighbor yelling for help as she’s robbed at knifepoint at 8:30 in the morning on her walk to work; the strain in a young man’s face as he momentarily opens to say “Miss, I’m tired of the violence;” a newfound ability to judge gunshot proximity by sound.
How can we continue standing inches from such a precipice?
Sometimes I’m surprised to feel the scowl affixed to my face instinctively smooth into a smile. I thought I had forgotten how to dance only to realize my feet were already moving long before my mind even registered the beat. Beauty is sneaky that way. Making life grander. Expansive. Sweeping. Opening a range of limitless possibilities. Allowing me to see scenes of warmth, fecundity and systems of thriving interconnection. Moments when I can only focus on the sweet, juicy, fibrous taste of an Otaheite apple; the crisp, shocking thrill of sliding into a frigid waterfall after a long, arduous hike; the laughter of boys imitating lawyers, mastering and wielding concepts of cross examination; the pastel painted sky of sunrise across the valley; feeling like Belle walking through the streets of her hometown, waving, smiling and speaking mawnin’ mawnin’ to security guards patrolling, men with machetes for gardening and women carrying bags of fresh fruits and veg; the sound of voices softly singing along anytime music is playing; a discussion of best practices shared among a room full of community volunteers, peacemakers.
How can we drink such goodness into the soul?
In all honesty, I’m not sure which Jamaica I will leave with in my heart.
I struggle because the centrality of this duality is part and parcel of life here, I struggle because the gnawing guilt of privilege that allows some measure of escape, I struggle over all that I will miss. I struggle because this reality has existed long before my arrival and will remain long after I am gone.
I’m struggling. But in truth, it’s been that way for quite some time, since foot touched ground in this land of wood and water.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Friday, May 5, 2017
From Prof. Chris Zawisza upon her retirement from the University of Memphis:
As you make your way to Denver, I wish you a very successful conference. I won’t be joining you this year, unfortunately. I am retiring after 40 years of practicing law and 20 years of teaching clinically. This community has been a source of strength, ideas, inspiration, support, and fellowship during years of calm, years of change, and now tumultuous times. As I reflect back on my times as a social justice advocate, I realize that our community has weathered tumultuous times before. Some of us remember the Vietnam era with the tear gas, the riots, the demonstrations, and the soul searching about our place in the world. I remember well the debates about working inside the system or working outside the system and what each entailed. I remember choosing to work inside the system by taking a job as a Management Intern with the then Department of HEW (now HHS) and then sitting idly at my desk watching the Nixon impeachment hearings. At the very least that era motivated me to go to law school and also gave me the savings to pay for law school! I remember our anxieties and fears as the Legal Services Corporation funding was substantially cut during the Reagan years along with other safety net programs. And I remember well having to find a new home when Congress prohibited legal services attorneys from doing class actions and legislative advocacy. That era led me to a home in clinical legal education which has been a true joy!
As a community, we have found that hard times bring out the best in us. We summon up our creativity, courage, and resilience and find new ways to serve clients, organizations, neighborhoods, and society. I’m sure we will forge a way forward. Thank you for all you have given me.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
"The Clinical Law Review will hold its next Clinical Writers’ Workshop on Saturday, September 23, 2017, at NYU Law School. The registration deadline is June 30, 2017.
The Workshop will provide an opportunity for clinical teachers who are writing about any subject (clinical pedagogy, substantive law, interdisciplinary analysis, empirical work, etc.) to meet with other clinicians writing on related topics to discuss their works-in-progress and brainstorm ideas for further development of their articles. Attendees will meet in small groups organized, to the extent possible, by the subject matter in which they are writing. Each group will “workshop” the draft of each member of the group.
Participation in the Workshop requires the submission of a paper because the workshop takes the form of small group sessions in which all members of the group comment on each other’s manuscripts. By June 30, 2017, all applicants must submit a mini-draft or prospectus, 3-5 pages in length, of the article they intend to present at the workshop. Full drafts of the articles will be due by September 1, 2017.
As in the previous Clinical Law Review Workshops, participants will not have to pay an admission or registration fee but will have to arrange and pay for their own travel and lodging. To assist those who wish to participate but who need assistance for travel and lodging, NYU Law School has created a fund for scholarships to help pay for travel and lodging. The scholarships are designed for those clinical faculty who receive little or no travel support from their law schools and who otherwise would not be able to attend this workshop without scholarship support. Applicants for scholarships will need to submit, with their 3-5 page prospectus (which is due by June 30), a proposed budget for travel and lodging and a brief statement of why the scholarship would be helpful in supporting their attendance at this conference. The Board will review all scholarship applications and issue decisions about scholarships in early July. The scholarships are conditioned upon recipients’ meeting all requirements for workshop participation, including submission of drafts by the deadlines identified above, and will be capped at a maximum of $750 per person.
Information about the Workshop – including the Registration form, scholarship application form, and information for reserving hotel rooms – is available on-line at:
If you have any comments or suggestions you would like to send us, we would be very happy to hear from you. Comments and suggestions should be sent to Randy Hertz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- The Board of Editors of the Clinical Law Review"