Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The Northwest clinical law community often views itself as one of the most happy and energetic groups in legal education. It is easy to see why they are such a jubilant group. First, they work in a natural setting that rivals some of the most beautiful regions in the world (within a short drive of a rugged forested coastline, the volcanic Cascades, and wine country world-renowned for its pinot noir). Second, the social justice-minded cultural values of the Northwest closely align with core values of clinical legal education, which creates a natural environment for clinical opportunities integrated with the larger community. Third, the region allows room for personhood and pioneering individuality in a way that is well suited to clinical educators trying to inspire their students through transformative professional experiences.
However, not even the breathtaking setting of the Columbia River Gorge could distract the Northwest clinical community from the somber mood that hovered over the group’s regional conference this past weekend. From the group’s first gathering at Friday’s reception, all were mindful and reflective of the recent unexpected decision to close one of the oldest and most respected clinics in the Northwest, the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic. That closing threatens the continued participation and contributions of three of the most well-respected and valued clinical faculty in the Northwest: Mark Peterson, Richard Slottee, and Terry Wright. Their expected absence in years to come, as well as the planned retirement of Larry Weiser of Gonzaga after 33 years, could mark the end of an era in the Northwest clinical community.
Despite the pall in the air, the conference moved forward with presentations and discussions from a variety of new as well as experienced faculty from Seattle University, University of Washington, Gonzaga, University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark, University of Montana, the University of British Columbia, and Willamette. The community learned about new clinics at the University of Oregon and the University of Washington, examined models of collaborating with volunteer attorneys, externships, legal writing faculty, and law librarians, considered the ethical challenges of representing children in law school clinics, and provided feedback on a book Deborah Maranville is co-editing on legal education. A new organization was even created to support externship directors in the region. All in all, it was a productive conference.
The group has already scheduled the dates for next year’s conference: October 2-4, 2015, at Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth, Washington (http://www.sleepinglady.com/). Before they left though, the conference participants did something that this group rarely does. They entered a formal session, discussed the tragedy unfolding at Lewis & Clark, and unanimously agreed to express their deep concern over the decision to close the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic to the Lewis & Clark administration, the AALS Section on Legal Education, and the ABA Section on Legal Education. When those letters are available, I will post them here. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to contact our colleagues at Lewis & Clark with any suggestions or insights you have that may be helpful to them in these deeply disturbing circumstances.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Our nation is currently witnessing headlines about the busing of hundreds of unaccompanied children across the Southwest from Texas to Arizona, where they are being warehoused, but there are tens of thousands more unaccompanied children in our nation who are not making headlines. All need our help. Tomorrow Gannett is publishing an op-ed I wrote about the need to provide legal representation for these children. It can be found here.
Law school clinics interested in this issue should consider applying for the AmeriCorps grants that the Obama administration announced on Friday to provide legal representation for these and other migrant children who are in similar circumstances (see NYT article). Information about the grants can be found at this site. The targeted jurisdictions for the grants are: Arlington, VA; Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Bloomington, MN; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; El Paso, TX; Hartford, CT; Kansas City, MO; Las Vegas, NV; Memphis, TN; Miami, FL; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Newark, NJ; Omaha, NE; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Portland, OR; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA.
If you need background in preparing your application, an excellent study about these children was just published by UC Hastings with the support of the MacArthur Foundation. I recently wrote a brief law review article arguing for the appointment of government-funded attorneys and personal representatives to help unaccompanied children navigate the legal labyrinth they face. If you would like to talk or need help with your application, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You will also find tremendous resources among our our colleagues who are immigration law faculty. They are a font of knowledge, passion, and commitment. Good luck!
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
This section, “But How Do I Teach…?: TOPIC” will focus on a different skill, area or lesson for clinical teachers and others alike to consider using/adapting for their teaching needs. The first focus topic is that of poverty – a situation that most clinical clients find themselves in when they seek our services.
A recent article by Steven K. Berenson (titled Preparing Clinical Law Students for Advocacy in Poor People's Courts (43 New Mexico Law Review 363 (2013)) highlights that teaching students about poverty, and practicing in poor people's courts, often falls on the shoulders of clinical faculty given the clientele we serve. While this may be true, do we teach poverty in clinics? In larger settings? Why/why not? If so, how? For newer clinicians, unless you have had training on this issue, highlighting it as a topic for your clinic may seem daunting. We know that poverty exists, but how do we convey understanding and suspension of judgment to our students (not forgetting that some of our students might have personal familiarity with poverty)? What follows is an overview of a basic poverty lecture and an interactive exercise for you and your students to work through, even if you teach this regularly.
What is poverty? Poverty is recognized really as two main types – generational and situational. Generational poverty occurs when your client is poor, their family has been poor, their family’s family has been poor – in other words, poverty is all they know. Situational poverty occurs when you have a client who might have been middle or upper class, but due to debt, foreclosure, medical bills, etc. they are thrust into poverty due to their situation and their circumstances.
Offered here is a proposed classroom exercise that has been run with great success the last several years in a clinical setting. The platform for discussion comes from an interactive poverty simulation known as Spent (link follows below). Allow about an hour for the exercise. When introducing poverty to students, defining the two main types as noted above offers a great general context for the types of clients they may be faced with. With each form of poverty comes its own challenges, judgment and client expectations. To get the students to work through the obstacles faced by our clients, have them pair up with a laptop, pad of paper and a pen. Direct them to the Spent scenario as listed below, and tell them to work through the entire thirty days of the scenario, keeping track of their choices as they go, giving them about 20 minutes to a half hour to do so. At the end of the exercise each pair reports back on how much they had left at the end of the month, and what the easiest and most difficult choice was and why. Once everyone is done, a group discussion can be held for 20-30 minutes. All monetary outcomes are written up for comparison, and each pairing is asked to reflect on the above and give their general impressions of how it felt to survive in poverty. The amounts each pairing ends up with will vary dramatically, as will their impressions of their ability to survive. Most students end up trying the scenario again within the allotted time frame “to try and win” without success – which is also a great lesson in itself – how exactly does one “win” in poverty? Great question. And fuel for more discussion. If you have never completed Spent for yourself, spare a half hour to reconnect with some basic situations and dilemmas.
Additional Resources: The newly released textbook Poverty Law, Policy & Practice by Juliet Brodie, Clare Pastore, Ezra Rosser and Jeff Selbin (available via Wolters Kluwer or Amazon). Simulations include the Poverty USA Tour (available at http://www.povertyusa.org/the-state-of-poverty/poverty-usa-tour/) and Spent – an interactive simulation putting you in survival mode for 30 days in Poverty (available at playspent.org/playspent.html). Lastly, Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days Series, Episode 1 makes for excellent watching as Morgan and his fiancé try to survive on minimum wage for 30 days.
Have ideas/exercises/topic suggestions? We would love to hear them! Please send any suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!