Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Pepperdine Scotland is a company in our theater department, and they are producing an original play for debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. Irish playwright Lynda Radley is developing an intense, complex story of sexual assault on American college campuses, with production and direction from Alex Fthenakis and Cathy Thomas-Grant. I have had the singular opportunity to serve as a consultant for the play and to share time with the cast and crew.
Stepping out of our clinics and law schools to participate with other disciplines in other departments can yield invigorating results. Consulting on the play has made me think more deeply about narrative structure and storytelling. Thinking about this play and this story has reminded me that these issues and relationships always exceed the bounds of legal definitions and invoke cultures, structures, societies, and deep histories. Working with creative artists, writers, and students reminds me that we can always have more and different ways to do our work. To see a production take flight from scratch inspires me to create and gives me courage to take on new endeavors with faith that we can speak to the world.
The Interference will be a powerful, important work. I can't wait to see it next year at Pepperdine.
I have the honor of contributing this guest post to the company blog, and I'm very proud to play even a small part in this production.
I am grateful and proud to contribute some ideas for The Interference this year. Lynda Radley, Alex Fthenakis, Cathy Thomas-Grant, and the Pepperdine crew and cast are undertaking a critical and hard project. The night in question will always matter: the facts, the tick-tock, the actions. But the night in question only really matters in the context of the lives and communities in question.The Interference is an ambitious attempt to explore the hyper-local relationship, on the night in question, between the young man who wants possession of the young woman’s body and the young woman who loses possession of her body to him. It is even more ambitious to explore the lives in question all around them, the life of the university, the life of fraternities, the life of friends, the life of the team and its fans, the life of the law, the life of the family.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Via Prof. Rocky Cabagnot of Charlotte and Prof. Kendall Kerew of Georgia State:
Please find attached the Request for Proposals for the 6th Annual Southern Clinical Conference, which will be held on October 13-15, 2016, at The Charlotte School of Law in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also attached is the cover sheet and template for proposals. Please send proposals to Rocky Cabagnot (email@example.com) by July 15th.
This year's Southern Clinical Conference theme is Celebrating The Work: Innovations, Traditions, and Disruptions in Clinical Legal Education.
Registration and hotel information can be found here - http://www.charlottelaw.edu/events.html?id=614
We hope that you will submit presentation proposals and join us for a wonderful conference in the Queen City of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Dean Rutledge at UGA this week shared this good news about our friend and co-blogger here, Prof. Alex Scherr, newly appointed as Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning. Sometimes I feel like I have never been to a clinical conference or been part of a project in this community that Alex did not lead or serve. Congratulations, Alex!
I am pleased to share with you that Professor Alex Scherr has agreed to serve as Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning. Alex is a longstanding leader in the clinical legal education community. He is the co-editor of the nationally and internationally distributed Learning From Practice: A Text for Experiential Legal Education, 3d ed. (West Academic, 2016) in which he authored several chapters, and he served as chair of the planning committee for the 2015 AALS Clinical Conference that had more than 725 participants and over 200 presenters. He also played a large role in the successful launch of our Atlanta Semester in Practice Program. I know he will build on the good work that Erica has undertaken in the last year and a half in this role.
Please join me in congratulating Alex on undertaking this important service as part of the law school's commitment to provide first-rate legal training.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” When it comes to expanding clinical legal education, the knee-jerk opinion is that it is too expensive for legal education to follow the lead of other professional schools and ensure that every student graduates with a clinical experience through a law clinic or externship. Even the richest law schools couldn’t resist playing the cost card to scare the ABA out of requiring additional professional skills training: “Requiring all law schools to provide 15 experiential credit hours to each student will impose large costs on law schools, costs that would have to be passed on to students. . . . Even a law school with significant financial resources could not afford such an undertaking.”
Yet, the facts show otherwise — every school, from the well-heeled to the impecunious, can provide a clinical experience to each student without increasing tuition.
. . . .
It is time to put to rest the canard that costs prevent the expansion of experiential courses or a required clinical experience for all students. Every school can afford to provide 15 credits of experiential coursework for its students, including a mandated law clinic or externship experience. The facts show that it is the wills of the ABA, state bar admission officials, and law school deans and their faculties, not the costs of clinical legal education, that are obstructing that progress.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Over the course of the semester, I give out countless pieces of advice to my students. You should use a Boolean search. Keep the timekeeping function open as you work. Stop using semicolons like glitter; they are not decorative.
In the end, who knows what sticks and what is instantly forgotten? Often, students ask me during our last meeting if I have any parting advice. Some say this simply to be nice and some are genuinely interested in my response. Either way, I recognize the opportunity. I know this is a chance to say something they will likely remember. I always give the same response: you need mentors.
Many of my students have not put much thought into mentorship. My advice gives us an opportunity to discuss their career ambitions and identify individuals who can help them achieve these goals. Generally, I encourage students to take the following active steps:
- Create a mentorship strategy
- As mentors are offering to help you during their free time, it is important to be respectful and considerate. Spend time identifying the areas in which you would like advice. Be sure to share your long term and short terms goals with your mentors.
- Create a network of mentors
- One mentor is never enough. You may start your legal career and then move into a different market or field. You will need mentors at every stage to help you.
- The above point should not preclude you from finding mentors in your area or workplace. Do you know you want to become In House Counsel for the World Wildlife Federation? It is probably not helpful to be mentored by a Big Law Partner in Patent Litigation. Find mentors in your field, or better yet – in the job you want!
- Be aware that your mentorship needs will change and be prepared to add new mentors to your network accordingly. After having my first child, I struggled with balancing work and motherhood. I was fortunate to have many wonderful mentors who offered advice on everything from the glass ceiling to managing travel with an infant.
- Strategies for finding mentors
- Reach out to the State Bar Association
- The State Bar often has formal programs matching mentors with new attorneys.
- Minority Bar Associations and Diversity Committees are also an excellent resource for connecting mentors and mentees.
- Reach out to your Alumni Association
- Be expansive! Do not limit your mentor search to your law school. Reach out to your undergraduate or other institutions for potential mentors.
- Reach out to the State Bar Association
- Listen & Learn!
- Sure the market has changed drastically in the last decade, but mentors have also weathered these tumultuous economic times. You do not need to follow all of their advice. However, it is in your best interest to hear what they have to say.
Finally, I encourage all my students to give back. I tell them not to wait until they have “made it.” There will always be a recent grad looking for guidance. There is no one better to help them than you.
Saturday, April 30, 2016
By Virgil Wiebe
Early in the life of our immigration clinic we represented a human trafficking victim and sued the trafficker in federal court under the 13th amendment and various other grounds. One day, the defendant (then a doctor at a prominent hospital) walked into the dean’s office demanding we drop the suit because, among other reasons, she, too, was Catholic. The dean heard her out, and then politely showed her the door. I appreciated that support, and now strive to provide similar support quietly to our faculty engaged in advancing social justice.
Rebellious Lawyering marks its 25th anniversary this year, with a number of events scheduled at the AALS Clinical Conference in Baltimore. Another important piece for those supportive of rebellious lawyering is Robert Kuehn and Bridget McCormack’s Lessons from Forty Years of Interference in Law School Clinics, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1756908, which came out in 2011. I revisited the piece recently.
As clinic director at a Catholic institution with faculty that straddle a wide swath of the political spectrum, I sometimes field the flak provoked by actions taken to advance differing visions of social justice. More often, our dean absorbs and responds to inquiries, consulting with me to provide accurate information about what’s happening.
On the most divisive political and social issues of the day, our faculty and clinics may take very public stands or work very quietly in behalf of clients. Whether with a megaphone in the middle of an interstate, at a public event at the White House, at the UN, in amicus briefs, or in small civil actions, our clinics are not unique in sometimes provoking intense anger, indignation, and opposition.
Our faculty include a self-described agitator deeply engaged in Black Lives Matter and the new civil rights movement, a former federal prosecutor who has turned against the death penalty and the over-incarceration of drug offenders, a defender of religious liberties, and a former congressional candidate and defender of traditional Catholic values. As you might imagine, their work and the work of their students occasionally stirs the pot.
Bob and Bridget’s piece is worth another read, especially for clinical faculty, deans, directors, university presidents and others who stand behind the scenes.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Together with the CLEA Newsletter Committee, I am very happy to announce that the Spring 2016 issue of the CLEA Newsletter has just been posted here: http://cleaweb.org/resources/Documents/CLEANewsletter%20spring%2016%20%28Final%29.pdf.
In this issue, you'll find lots of interesting content, including a tribute to Gary Palm, articles on clinical teaching, CLEA committee and advocacy reports, and several announcements about upcoming events at the AALS Clinical Conference in Baltimore. Plus, you'll find good news from our colleagues around the world.
CLEA Newsletter Committee
Lauren Bartlett (Ohio Northern)
Tanya Asim Cooper (Pepperdine)
Susan Donovan (Alabama)
D'lorah Hughes (Wayne State)
Kate Kruse (Mitchell Hamline)
Sunday, April 24, 2016
“Prepare to…No, I mean…. Ready about!” I shouted as I glanced up, around and behind me, then up again at the wind vane on the top of the mast. We were in a close reach, or close haul, or maybe a pinch.
“Ready!” My two crew mates grasped the jib sheets.
“Helms-a-lee!” I remembered that call properly and pulled the tiller left toward me, then corrected myself. We were turning to port, so I needed to push it to the right, I mean, to starboard, toward my instructor.
The mainsail swung across the cockpit in a short arc, the main sheet catching the boom. The jib luffed then fell as one crew mate eased off her sheet while the other hardened up as we passed through the wind.
I glanced up at the wind vane to stop the turn in a close reach, focused intently on the little arrow and its v-shaped indicators to tell me when I was out of irons and into my starboard tack. While my brain processed that little vane, it was not focused on the wind on my face or the kayaker or the sail boat or the piers, at least for a few seconds of forced decisions and information overload.
I was at the helm of a Catalina 22 in the middle of Marina Del Rey, thinking a lot about clinical pedagogy.
Our instructor sat across from me, kicked back against the stern pulpit, nonplussed, a salty-dog sailor, who was also a screenwriter with some work in IT (in LA, naturally), and with, as I would later learn, degrees from Yale and Harvard. He said, “Pick a landmark, keep it in the middle of the pulpit. Don’t steer too much. Your sail is luffing. Harden up. Okay, steer a little more than that. Keep on this line. Watch out for that boat. What tack are they on?”
“Um. Port? Port.”
“Right, so do we stand on or give way? “
“Um, we… Um, we, we stand on.”
“Right. Who’s next? Let’s rotate.”
So I shifted up to take a jib sheet while a class mate took the helm before we fell away to a beam reach, then to a broad reach, before we prepared to jibe, then actually jibed. She yelled, “Jibe ho!” which I had not gotten to do yet but which sounded cool. I relaxed my shoulders and saw everything I couldn’t notice while I was at the helm.
For my fortieth birthday, my wife got me sailing lessons, Basic Keelboat, the 101 course for the American Sailing Association at Bluewater Sailing. Since we had moved to our university overlooking the Santa Monica Bay three years ago, I had been pining for the sea, so she gave me a shot. For four days over two weekends, my crew of four and our instructor learned and practiced the basics. For a week, I had stress dreams about tying knots.
In the first week, I noticed that the terminology was my greatest distraction. Conceptually, I was getting it, but articulating all of these things quickly took the most mental focus. When we got underway, then started making way, after just an hour or so of basic orientation on shore, I was thrilled to be on the water. But when I was at the tiller, in a crowded marina, I had near-sighted tunnel vision on every task.
I had to focus on that wind vane constantly to reckon my point of sail, but I couldn’t do that while I was trying to remember to push the tiller in the opposite direction we needed to turn, while trying to remember whether to harden up or ease off the sail, to head up into the wind or to fall off, while all the time remembering the sailing words to use for all of those things. Our instructor made us narrate them every time, making us say what we were going to do before we did it, then to say it was we did it, then to do it all again. I sure hoped he or someone was paying attention to whatever we might hit, because I surely wasn’t.
He would have made a great clinical teacher, demanding but never worried we would collide with anything, even as he let us drift awfully close to disaster.
Prepare. Perform. Reflect. Prepare. Perform. Reflect.
We sailed in circles for the entire first day, through all the points of sail. Heading up from the broad reach to the beam reach to the close reach, coming about through the wind, into a close reach, falling off to a beam reach, to a broad reach, jibing away from the wind, then back again. Round and round and round, while all the other boats headed out to sea.
It reminded me of my first judicial hearing in real life, when a partner needed to tell me where to sit in the courtroom. How I was intently focused on the judge and my notes and how everything else dissolved into fuzzy notions of bailiffs, clerks, opponents, who were all there but who I couldn’t recognize while blood rushed through my ears. It reminded me of sitting in a law library in my firm, surrounded by books that I swore someone had once taught me to use when I was a 1L but that I now felt incapable of using like an expert.
It reminded me of a 3L who would ask me whether he has to cite the case he’s discussing in the memo. Yes, you always cite everything. Yes, cite it in a footnote. Yes, with the Bluebook. LRW was more than just sitting on the pier with a model. You have to take this thing out in the water and use it.
This is experiential learning.
The fourth and final day of the course, we sailed out into Santa Monica Bay with my crew, on a boat without a wind vane on the mast. We felt the wind. We could see it on the sails. We were in a port tack, and I needed to ease up that main sheet to keep our line on a broad reach. I knew how to sail that little Catalina 22 over six-foot swells and around that racing buoy and back again, because I had sailed in circles for days, chanting the turns and orders like a mantra. The final day, I didn’t have to dig deep to remember what to say. I just said it, and I knew what it meant because I could see where I wanted to go, could feel the wind on my face and could watch those sails react.
We could have talked all day about points of sail with a white board and a model, but we didn’t learn to sail on the ocean until we worked together under real sails in real wind on real water. We began confused, confounded and exposed in our novice ways, but by sailing we were becoming sailors.
The last day, I didn’t have tunnel vision. I saw all the other traffic on the water while our crew shared stories about our lives and work. We jibed all the way into the marina with the wind at our backs, calling out orders and turns while hardening up and easing off our sails, judging distance and angles, laughing and answering questions, giving and receiving advice. I was making plans to get my family out on the water as skipper of my own boat.
That reminded me of the student who was terrified to meet with a client alone for first time in a semester, who shrank from the weight of a client’s trust, who doesn’t trust herself to make a real-time decision, but who, just weeks later, is briefing her fourth client on the law with confidence in her own preparation. It reminded me of the student who is utterly stymied when he realizes his facts don’t come in a hypothetical and who can’t even identify the issue he’s supposed to spot, but who, ten weeks later, argues in court with a precise, prepared, creative presence of mind.
They were stumped by the jargon then stupefied by all of the information they needed to process as their instructor told them to sail in circles. After turning through the points of sail, over and over, reciting their lines, learning the wind, watching the sails, feeling the tiller, taking in more and more of the boat’s reaction in the water, the instructor finally said, “Come about and head to sea.” Then the horizon opens up, and the glittering water reflects a bright sky. The sails fill, and the boat cruises out of the harbor.
"To study the phenomena of law in society without books is to sail an uncharted sea, while to study the law without clients is not to go to sea at all." - Professor Charles Henderson Miller, founder of the University of Tennessee legal clinic in 1947.
- able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
- involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources
- able to last or continue for a long time
“Remember you are not a sustainable resource.” A mentor told me that several years ago at an AALS clinical conference as we were in the midst of adding our fourth in-house clinic in as many years. It stayed with me, but unfortunately I did not heed his warning. Now, as the semester is ending, and I am closing my 8th year in clinical teaching, it seems like a perfect time to be more reflective and consider personal sustainability.
As clinicians, we play a different role than our doctrinal colleagues, and it takes a dissimilar toll. Often times it also involves a different schedule. The 24/7 unpredictability of lawyering and client representation, during the academic year and, for many of us, the summer, and student supervision that goes far beyond the physical and emotional boundaries of the classroom, can be as much of a strain as it can be a source of energy. Clinical teaching is the very definition of multi-tasking – juggling the needs of clients, students, the community, and the institution, while seeking to maintain some sort of work-life balance. It is both incredibly rewarding, and exceptionally demanding, work, becoming even more so as legal education is being challenged to produce lawyers with more practice-readiness and professional responsibility.
When classes end and we celebrate our graduating students, we not only revel in their success and wish them well, we also roll up our sleeves and turn back to the task of representing the clients our clinic graduates leave behind. The pace is slower in the summer, but the client needs remain, and it can be a challenge for clinicians to recharge and help ensure their sustainability unless they have assistance in the summer. Between client needs and academic preparation for the coming year, and scholarship or other professional endeavors, the summer can pass with lightning speed, with eager new students knocking at the door before we know it.
This year, unlike year’s past, I am going to try something new to ensure my long-term sustainability. Following a particularly demanding year, internally and externally, I have seen warning signs of the destruction of my own natural resources, and it worries me not for myself, but for those who rely on me, at work and at home. Just like the flight attendant who tells us to put on our own oxygen mask before we put on the mask for a small child, we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. I have started to delegate a little more, said no a few times (this one is particularly difficult for me!), and taken some time out of the office. It turns out I have started to relax a bit, enjoyed my students more, been reminded how lucky I am to have a career that I love, and even started to laugh again.
I challenge each of you to take this summer to reflect, on what you need to do, and what you want to do, and what you can jettison from your already full plate in an effort to ensure your sustainability. If you find it difficult to do this for yourself, do it for your students, your clients, and those who love you. That’s going to be the top priority on my summer to-do list; but first, I’m going to go listen to the ocean waves . . . which always makes everything better!
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Ah Coachella. California's yearly music and arts festival affords lot of opportunities for its attendees - amazing music, lots of star sightings, entire websites devoted to the fashion strategies to employ while attending, and being able to file your taxes unsuccessfully. Wait? What?
At least ten people tried to file their taxes from the Coachella campground post office this past weekend. Ironically the "post office" isn't a real post office, nor sponsored by USPS, and "acts more as an intermediary" between the festival "and the real local post office" according to the California Mercury News. Megan Hampton, who runs the Coachella "office, was quoted as saying "No, I can't 'just take it...How do they have their taxes here? I don't know."
Jeff Baker @JRBProf - better get that clinic outreach #JusticeBus ready for this weekend. Sounds like there are folks who could use your clinic's help - maybe even Kanye or Kesha. If not this year then perhaps we need to plan a road trip and ask Prof. Paul Caron @SoCalTaxProf to tag along. As long as actress Vanessa Hudgens @VanessaHudgens can tell us what to wear. I'm in @hagan_carrie. Maybe I'll have a #Suitsy by then.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Via Prof. Luz Herrera:
I write to ask for your assistance in helping UCLA School of Law find great candidates for its Binder Clinical Teaching Fellowship. The Binder Clinical Teaching Fellowship is a two-year fellowship to help launch an attorney with at least two years of practice into a career in clinical legal education. The Binder Fellow will work with and be supported by clinical faculty at UCLA School of Law. The two-year fellowship will commence on July 1, 2016 and end June 30, 2018.
The Binder Clinical Teaching Fellowship offers opportunities for clinical teaching and research designed to prepare the fellow to seek a permanent clinical faculty position at a law school. The fellow will be expected to teach in clinics and/or experiential courses each semester, including the first year Introduction to the Lawyer Client Relationship. During the summer, the fellow will be fully engaged with a scholarly research project. The law school would provide research support and faculty mentoring on legal scholarship. In the second year, the fellow would be expected to complete the research project for publication, supervise externs, and teach or co-teach each semester.
Candidates should possess a J.D. or equivalent advanced degree; an excellent academic record; at least two years of practice experience (more preferred); admission to the California bar; excellent analytical and writing skills; an aptitude for student supervision; a collegial style; and a demonstrated interest in or potential for scholarship, particularly in the area that informs experiential learning. In order to meet student interest and institutional need, preference may be given to candidates who are interested in teaching and writing in the areas of criminal or immigration law. UCLA School of Law seeks candidates committed to the highest standards of scholarship and professional activities and to a campus climate that supports equality and diversity.
Applicants should apply online by submitting a cover letter discussing their qualifications and clinical teaching interests, a cv or resume, a law school transcript, contact information for three references, and a one-to two-page statement of research interests at https://recruit.apo.ucla.edu/apply/JPF02160. To ensure full consideration, applications should be received by Monday, May 16, 2016, but will be considered thereafter until the position is filled.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Via Prof. Anju Gupta:
The CLEA Board of Directors is thrilled to announce that the Law Reform Advocacy Clinic at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Civil Rights Clinic are the recipients of the 2016 CLEA Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project. Descriptions of their projects follow.
University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Civil Rights Clinic, Decoteau v. Raemisch
This class action lawsuit, litigated by student attorneys and professors with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, as well as attorneys at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), resulted in the provision of outdoor exercise for prisoners at Colorado State Penitentiary. For over twenty years, the close custody prisoners who occupy CSP – the vast majority of whom were held in conditions of solitary confinement – were only permitted to exercise in a cell similar to their living cell, with a narrow slit of a window that opened directly to the outdoors. As a result, these prisoners went months, years, or even decades without feeling the rain or sun. As a result of this case, which arose from an earlier individual lawsuit also litigated by the Civil Rights Clinic and CREEC (Anderson v. Colorado), the Colorado Department of Corrections will construct three outdoor exercise yards at CSP. The outcome in Decoteau has meaningfully contributed to the advancement of civil rights, because a group of students, their clinic professors, and a small civil rights nonprofit – along with the incarcerated men who served as named plaintiffs and constituted members of the class - took on the Colorado Department of Corrections, ultimately obtaining for some 500 prisoners the ability to exercise outdoors.
Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, Law Reform Advocacy Clinic
The Law Reform Advocacy Clinic at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, under the leadership of Professor Stefan Krieger, has just completed a ground-breaking, multi-plaintiff housing discrimination litigation that lasted for over 10 years. In 2004, the clinic began work on behalf of a number of tenants on a particularly complex and disturbing discrimination matter. Over the years, the landlord of a 54-unit building near the center of Farmingdale Village neglected maintenance of the building to force out tenants, and the Village prepared a redevelopment plan for the area that displaced any remaining tenants, most of them low-income Latino laborers. The Clinic filed a Fair Housing Act case (the “Rivera” case) on behalf of nine former tenants in federal court alleging that the Village’s redevelopment plans for the building intentionally targeted Latinos and that the developer and owner acted in concert with the Village in its discriminatory plans. The case set a number of significant precedents. Among other things, for the first time in a written opinion in a housing discrimination case, a federal court recognized that plaintiffs displaced from their community because of discrimination can be awarded damages for “loss of enjoyment of life.” The case settled prior to trial with a consent decree that was an extraordinary victory for the clients. In addition to a substantial monetary award, each plaintiff was guaranteed housing in new developments, the Village agreed to set aside housing for low- and moderate-income residents, the Village agreed that its officials will be trained in fair housing law and procedures, and the Village agreed to ongoing compliance monitoring to ensure the consent decree is being implemented. The case has significant ramifications on Long Island, where racial and ethnic tensions still run high, and where more and more local governments are enacting laws aimed at reducing the places for poor immigrants to live.
Both awards, along with the CLEA Award for Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers (being awarded posthumously to Gary Palm) will be presented at the AALS luncheon at the Clinical Conference on Monday, May 2nd. The Committee received an unusually large number of outstanding nominations in the case/project category this year, and we congratulate all of the nominees on their extraordinary accomplishments.
The CLEA Board acknowledges with gratitude the efforts of the CLEA Awards Committee:
Geneva Brown (Valparaiso)
Anju Gupta, Co-Chair (Rutgers-Newark)
Perry Moriearty, Co-Chair (Minnesota)
Kele Stewart (Miami)
Jane Stoever (Irvine)
Friday, April 15, 2016
Columbia Law School’s Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic Unveils Earned Income Tax Credit Information Tool Kit and Online Portal.
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program brought millions of families above the poverty level last year. In 2014, 27.5 million low-and-moderate income workers received more than $66 billion in EITC. The average amount of EITC received by tax filers last year was more than $2400. Still, the IRS estimates that roughly $1 billion dollars is regularly left unclaimed.
Building on earlier work with the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), Columbia’s Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County on two projects. The first is an EITC “Tool Kit” that is designed to help advocates across the country explain to their clients and constituents how to qualify for EITC benefits. The second project is an EITC online information portal. This lay-focused website provides an overview of the EITC benefit, eligibility requirements and filing process. In addition, users have access to an eligibility calculator, filing forms and a list of resources for free help with filing for the EITC. Information about both the Tool Kit and Portal has been circulated to all 134 LSC-affiliated offices as well as other prominent service providers and community organizations.
One does not have to owe taxes or expect a refund to claim the EITC. Even those who are not required to file a federal tax return can apply. Also, those eligible for the EITC can go back three years to claim it.
Both projects exemplify the work of the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic. In the Clinic, students use technology to create products and services that allow public interest legal organizations and the courts to expand access to justice. In this project, the Tool Kit contains information about the EITC and gives legal services attorneys an overview of the need to promote EITC awareness. It also provides advocates a convenient set of resources geared towards encouraging low-to-moderate low wage workers to claim the benefits they’ve earned. Similarly, the Portal is designed to be an online “one-stop shop” for anyone to learn more about the EITC program. The students created the portal to break down seemingly complex tax filing information into straightforward language that is accessible to the public.
These two projects aim to address the overwhelming unmet demand for free civil legal services. Because many legal aid/legal services offices are understaffed in proportion to the communities they serve, many persons do not receive the legal help that they seek. One way to close this gap is to make information about significant resources available to the community. Here, while it is important for public interest lawyers to spread the word about vital benefits, there is no need for a lawyer to actually assist applicants in filing claims. Instead, the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic has made the information about how to file for the EITC available for free online. In so doing, more people can receive the much needed benefits they deserve.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
A client hugged me last week and I was happy. I still am and am still thinking about it.
The man did not really even have to come in for an appointment and I was not really sure why he was there. Over five years, my students and I had represented him in an SSI case and had stuck with him. We had finally won with him. He had severe health problems that slowed him but they did not obviously qualify him for benefits. He was often too sick or disorganized to go to his doctor, meaning his medical records were not very supportive. He often missed appointments with us. His fiancé helped him drink, a vice I could absolutely forgive him as he tried to find a way to live with no income in a state with no General Assistance and little other help. Judges and the law were less forgiving. His drinking only made his case harder. But we stuck with him, and eventually convinced a judge that he needed help. He was about to get it.
I was happy to talk with him to explain what he had to do to actually have his benefits start, but he really did not have to come in and I think he knew that. Yet he did. And after we talked about what he needed to do to actually get the benefits started, I shook his hand until he stopped me, gave me a hug, thanked me, and left. We had mattered to this 60-year-old man, a man whose life had taken a very different track than my students and mine but with whom we’d formed a connection. He found a way to communicate it. He hugged me.
How nice was that! How hard it is for my students and me to stop and feel appreciated. Perhaps I am better at hugging others and showing others I care—maybe that is for them to say—and I certainly hug friends, family, students, and some clients. But this man forced me to stop and think for a minute that maybe my students and I mattered to him and had improved his life in a way that mattered. I haven’t heard from him since, and probably never will.
I teach about professionalism and hugging clients is not part of the curriculum. Maybe it should be? When my students and I talk about how to present ourselves as professionals, we are more likely to talk about role differentiation and keeping professional distance. We hardly talk about what we are sacrificing for our clients and ourselves. Shouldn’t we let clients communicate the best way they can? Do we seem too aloof? Aren’t we separating ourselves too much when we call our clients by their last names, hide behind desks when we meet them, and share their joy with nods and handshakes?
I need to teach my students about this. They need to feel appreciated and need learn how to use this tool. I admit I feel somewhat guilty that it was not some of my students that had worked with this man but that I was the one who got to have this experience. I can at least share with them what it was like, and that it feels great.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Announcement via Prof. Christine Cimini:
We are pleased to announce that Perry Moriearty, Vaughan G. Papke Clinical Professor in Law at the University of Minnesota School of Law, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the clinical section’s Shanara Gilbert Award. The award will be presented to Perry during a luncheon at the Clinical Legal Education Conference in Baltimore on Sunday, May 1, 2016.
Designed to honor an "emerging clinician," the award is presented to a clinical professor with ten or fewer years of experience who has (1) a commitment to teaching and achieving social justice, particularly in the areas of race and the criminal justice system; (2) a passion for providing legal services and access to justice to individuals and groups most in need; (3) service to the cause of clinical legal education or to the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education; (4) an interest in international clinical legal education; and (5) an interest in the beauty of nature (desirable, but not required).
The nomination materials detailing Perry’s many accomplishments note that Perry’s work on race and criminal and juvenile justice issues is an archetype for how a clinician can combine teaching, scholarship, and law reform advocacy. As the co-director of the University of Minnesota Child Advocacy and Juvenile Justice Clinic Perry led her students into work on cutting edge projects related to the United States Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in the case Miller v. Alabama. This work has had a national impact on issues of race and justice in criminal and juvenile arenas.
Perry’s work on the Miller retroactivity issue has garnered substantial attention among academics, advocates and the media. Her 2015 article, Miller v. Alabama and the Retroactivity of Proportionality Rules, 17 J. CONST. L. 929, 981 (2015), has been featured in both local and national commentary, and was the subject of SCOTUSblog’s September 29, 2015 Academic Highlight. In January 2016, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court held that Miller is retroactive, and Perry’s article was quoted and cited extensively in amicus briefs. Perry’s work on the issue of juvenile life without parole has also led to her to act as an advisor on related matters outside of Minnesota. She has worked with national litigators, including Bryan Stevenson of Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative and Marsha Levick of Philadelphia’s Juvenile Law Center, on coordinated litigation strategies at the Eighth Circuit and Supreme Court levels.
In addition, Perry is rapidly becoming an important voice in the scholarly community. She published a series of articles based on her research on race and juvenile and criminal justice issues that have made an impact not only on scholarship in this field, but also on public policy. Her work has been cited in some of the leading law reviews, but it also has provided support for litigation by racial justice advocates and has been used in legislative debates.
Perry routinely extends her work into the public service arena. In addition to her clinical teaching and scholarship, she has played a critical role in legislation, policy and public advocacy on race and criminal and juvenile justice matters. Over the last four years, at the request of the McArthur Foundation in 2012, she has been coordinating a state-level effort to draft and enact a multi-pronged progressive juvenile justice bill.
Perry served on the CLEA Board for four and a half years and has also presented workshops and led working groups at a number of the AALS conferences over the last several years.
Last year, Perry and her students worked with Carolina Rojas Flores, a human rights attorney and clinical professor at the Universidad Catolica de Oriente in Colombia who specializes in penitentiary law, on the development of her clinical program. This work was part of the University of Minnesota’s USAID/Higher Education for Development (HED) human rights partnership with four law schools in Antioquia, Colombia.
Finally, Perry is an avid hiker, camper, kayaker and runner, spending as much of her free time as possible in undeveloped wilderness. Perry has kayaked portions of the Sea of Cortez and backpacked through areas of Maine and Colorado. She and her husband have also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Please join me in recognizing Perry for her many accomplishments and contributions. We look forward to celebrating her work together at the conference in Baltimore.
Hosted by New York Law School, New York, NY
June 10-12, 2016
The 2016 Third National Symposium on Experiential Learning in Law will take a careful look at how to identify and effectively assess experiential learning outcomes in the legal education context. This symposium will offer highly interactive sessions that will provide learning designed to improve the quality of assessment in law schools’ experiential programs.
Assessment is the pedagogical topic of our time. As law schools move toward greater adoption of multiple forms of assessment, it is incumbent on legal educators to share information on existing methods of assessment—what has worked well and less well, and why—as well as to tap into the expertise of those from other disciplines who have adopted assessment techniques for experiential learning that might be applicable to law schools. With these goals in mind, we anticipate holding several plenary sessions that will offer broad perspectives, from within and from outside law, on the challenges and the methods of assessing experiential learning.
We also plan multiple small-group sessions at which individual assessment methodologies will be presented and closely assessed by workshop participants. These sessions will be the result of a call for proposals issued in 2015 which generated multiple submissions by teachers engaged in assessing experiential learning, and these submissions in turn are now part of an iterative process of feedback and revision in advance of the conference.
This conference is sponsored by New York Law School and The Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law and co-sponsored by Northeastern University School of Law, American University, Washington College of Law, Elon University School of Law, the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and Vermont Law School. Additional generous support comes from West Academic Publishing and from Carolina Academic Press.
New York Law School has a longstanding commitment to experiential education. Its Office of Clinical and Experiential Learning coordinates a program of 19 clinics in a wide range of subject-matter and skills fields, together with externships and workshops, simulation courses, project-based learning courses, upper level writing courses, and skills competition teams. The School’s Clinical Theory Workshop series, now completing its 30th year, offers clinicians and other skills teachers a forum for scholarship and reflection on lawyering skills and pedagogy.
The Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law (“the Alliance”) was formed in 2011 under the auspices of Northeastern University School of Law. It now includes members from more than 113 law schools and legal services organizations. “The Alliance’s ultimate goal is to ensure that law graduates are ready to practice with a full complement of skills and ethical and social values necessary to serve clients and the public interest, now and in the future.”
Monday, April 11, 2016
If you are anything like me around this time of the year, when the weather slumps and with exams approaching, you look for hilarity where you can find it (when you are avoiding all press about the upcoming political chaos that represents our electoral system). That's why I was so excited to learn about being able to vote for Boaty McBoatface. That's right - Boaty McBoatface. Because, despite best intentions, when you allow the internet to assist with what seems like an innocuous naming endeavor, sometimes funny wins out.
NERC - the United Kingdom's Natural Environment Research Council, opened up the ability to suggest a name for their newest polar research ship in early March of 2016. With initial names suggested being what you might expect for this sort of thing - Shackleton, Endeavour and Falcon for example, they might have thought that they were safe. Not so fast, thanks to James Hand, who submitted the name and who's Twitter feed profile lists him as being a reason we can't have nice things, along with the hashtag #BoatyMcBoatface.
Should you want to cast your vote - you'd better hurry. Voting closes April 16, 2016. You can cast your vote here or by visiting: https://nameourship.nerc.ac.uk/entries.html. Let this be a lesson to all of us - and may the best name win!
Sunday, April 3, 2016
My clinical work has been marked by tragedy. I am not alone in that. Clients lose their dignity and their lives in our world with remarkable frequency. A few days ago, on the third anniversary of the loss of my clinic's client Traci Raymond Miscavish in a murder-suicide resulting from domestic violence, I met a leader in this work who inspires me. Eve Ensler has been a seemingly tireless advocate for victims of sexual violence for decades. But she has also written extensively about her survival of cancer and its link to her awakening to the need for self-care for advocates. Her work now relates directly to the connection we all experiences as humans, and our need to model self-care as we are fighting for others to care for--or simply not harm-- one another. The photo of us after a few precious moments of dialogue about this topic among other Penn State advocates for victims of sexual and intimate partner violence is below. Also pictured below is a photo of my Family Law Clinic's graduate fellow, Courtney Kiehl with an inspiring human rights advocate she met recently through our work at Penn State. Courtney's work with my interdisciplinary research partner, Penn State's Weiss Chair of the Humanities Rosemary Jolly, has inspired me to evolve as a scholar and teacher. Human rights and its connection to justice in a systemic way are informing the articles I write, the doctrines I focus on in the classroom, and the daily interactions I have with clinical students. Our connections enable our collaborations, which increase our capacity as legal advocates. Here is Courtney in her own words:
As a recent law graduate and someone who has spent most of her life working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, I’m drawn to studying human rights. Still, I’m a 26-year-old middle-class American who with much to learn about human rights. At a recent conference on African human rights, I was shocked at the connects I experienced.
One speaker asked me why I came to Penn State Law from California. I told her that I started working with survivors after coming forward about the sexual abuse I suffered by the hands of my gymnastics coach as a child. An expression of deep sadness came over her face. It was genuine in a way that I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen in the 12 years I’ve been telling my story. It was as if in that moment, the thought that people we trust are capable of hurting us in an immensely devastating way.
For me, that was the moment it clicked. This woman, who came from South Africa, a nation that has been through apartheid and colonization, a nation where a myriad of horrible injustices are the norm, was reacting to hearing my experience in the same way I reacted to hers. Our mutual sadness and bewilderment was evident as we reflected on the terrible things humans do to one another.
Later, the brilliant speaker Tushabe wa Tushabe discussed the oppression of individuals who don’t conform to gender norms in our hetero-normative world. With scrunched eyebrows, Tushabe said, “Why would you do something to someone that you wouldn’t want for yourself? Simple as that. Why?” You could have heard a pin drop. She continued, “It must be that the life you’re looking at doesn’t matter.” To address human rights violations, we must see the survivors as fully capable humans with experiences, thoughts, and lives that matter.
The conversations spanning the course of the weekend have inspired me and allowed me to feel more connected and less alone than I ever have before. I hope to never forget this feeling and am eternally grateful for the beauty and generosity of the brilliant humans I was fortunate enough to spend two days with.
Friday, April 1, 2016
2016 Midwest Clinical Legal Education Conference, University of Tulsa College of Law, October 6-8, 2016.
Our plans continue to develop for the 2016 Midwest Clinical Conference and we want you to be part of those plans! We have received a number of exciting proposals and we still have more room for you to contribute your creative talents and ideas to make this an even better conference. Since we know this is the crunch time for many clinical faculty and their students, we have decided to extend the deadline for proposals until Friday, April 22.
So, whether you are collaborating with friends and colleagues or have an idea for a solo presentation on an issue or idea that has been percolating for a while, don't be shy! The beauty of being part of this great community of teachers, advocates, and scholars is that you are always among friends eager to share ideas and learn from each other. Make a plan to join us in Tulsa in October!
In addition to fascinating presentations and conversations, we have great evening events planned in the Brady Arts District and at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. We hope to see you in Tulsa in October!
The planning committee is seeking proposals from faculty and administrators engaged in clinical education, externships, incubators, and other experiential learning opportunities who are interested in presenting/participating in conference panels or presenting works-in-progress. Although the regional conference seeks to bring together clinicians and clinic administrators from law schools located in the Midwest (however broadly or narrowly you define it), we encourage participation by interested law faculty and administrators from far and wide. Information about submitting a proposal for a presentation or a WIP is attached. We invite you to share your experience and ideas with clinical colleagues from across the midwest and the United States. The deadline for proposals is April 22, 2016. Please ignore all previous deadlines.
More information about registration and accommodation at the conference will follow. In the meantime, please save the date and consider joining us in Tulsa and participating in the more than 30 year tradition of thriving Midwest Clinical Conferences. And feel free to contact Elizabeth McCormick at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions at all about being part of this great conference.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
In the article, the editors explain their methodology. Clinics account for 38% of the ranking scores, derived from ABA data on the number of clinic seats filled relative to upper level enrollment. Externships accounts for 24% of the ranking scores, based on the numbers of students in externships relative to the number of upper level students, likewise based on ABA data. Simulation courses account for 21% of the ranking scores, reckoned similarly from ABA data. Interschool competitions account for 5% of the scores, and the final 10% of the scores are for other programs, like pro bono, that are not reflected in the other categories.
Here are the top 25 schools from this year's rankings:
- University of St. Thomas (MN)
- Washington & Lee
- Case Western
- Mitchell Hamline
- Golden Gate
- New Hampshire