Clinical Law Prof Blog

Editor: Jeffrey R. Baker
Pepperdine University
School of Law

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bob Kuehn: Data Show Most Law Schools Are Not Preparing Students Well for Practice

In a post at the Best Practices blog, Prof. Robert Kuehn examines empirical data on the performance of law schools in preparing students for practice.  He finds and demonstrates that most law schools continue to fall short of preparing students for practice, even many years after the ABA and most law schools declared preparation for practice to be a principal goal of legal education.

More recent studies have not reflected any improvement in the role of legal education in preparing graduates for practice. The American Bar Foundation’s After the JD study tracks the careers of a sample of lawyers who passed the bar in 2000. It asked lawyers three and seven years of out of school if “law school prepared me well for my legal career.” On this fundamental objective of legal education, law schools failed miserably — 40% of lawyers after three years of practice and 50% after seven years said that law school did not adequately prepare them. Both groups overwhelmingly agreed that law school was too theoretical and unconcerned with real life practice. In another study of early-career lawyers, only 28% believed that law school prepared them to practice law.

January 5, 2017 in Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Clinic Mural

UCD Mural

Like many clinicians, I found this past semester challenging. (And yes, “challenging” is code for all of the other descriptors and curses best left off this blog.) I was fortunate to work with 10 especially engaged UC Davis law students in a clinic serving victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. But the semester seemed unusually fraught with health issues for students, staff, and faculty alike, and our clients faced particularly frustrating setbacks in court. Then there was the election…

But there was also a new kind of energy in our building - involving scaffolding, paint, and pizza. Professor Maceo Montoya and the undergraduate students* enrolled in his Fall 2016 Chicana/o Studies Mural Workshop created and painted a mural for a large wall in our clinic cottage. (The picture does not do it justice.) The left side depicts “trapped,” portraying isolation, hardship, and the lack of accessibility to lawyers for our clients. The center represents “agency,” portraying our clinic law students, the history of our building as a farmworker cottage, and the hope the rising sun brings. The right side shows “liberation,” including the chains of oppression transforming into quetzals, the safe space provided through our clinic, legal successes for clients, and “justice” written in several languages.

Thanks to connections made by one of our Immigration Clinic Directors, Professor Holly Cooper, and the creativity and hard work of Professor Montoya and his students, our workspace is more colorful, more inviting, and more meaningful. And we now have an everyday reminder of the reason we do the work we do.

Happy New Year!

*The students who painted the mural were: Vanessa Barajas Orozco, Castro, Anllely, Monica Duarte Martinez, Jose Espinoza, Jazmin Guerrero, Daisy Hernandez, Kristi Lin, Cecilia Lopez, Jeannette Martinez, Raul Mercado, Annette Miramontes, Briana Nunez, Jessica Orozco, Derick Romero, Shelby Sanders, and Natalie Villalobos Gomez. Several mentioned an interest in social justice lawyering, so keep an eye out for their law school applications.  

January 4, 2017 in Clinic News, Interdisciplinary Programs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Clinicians and Clinical Events at the 2017 AALS Annual Meeting

The 2017 AALS Annual Meeting opens Tuesday, January 3, in San Francisco. The AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education and the Clinical Legal Education Association have several events, formal and informal, on the menu.


Tuesday, January 3:

CLEA Board Meeting, 3:00 – 5:00 (UC-Hastings,100 McAllister St., 3d Floor)

CLEA Membership Meeting, 5:30 – 6:30 (UC-Hastings, 198 McAllister St., Ground Floor)


Wednesday, January 4:

A Practical Approach to Developing and Assessing Experiential, Meaningful Placements for Incoming and Outgoing J.D. Law, International Legal Exchange and Post-Graduate Legal Education Joint Program, Co-Sponsored by Clinical Legal Education, East Asian Law & Society, & Graduate Programs for Non-U.S. Lawyers, 1:30 – 4:30 (Yosemite C)

Jessica Burns (Global Experiences), William H. Byrnes (Texas A&M), Gillian Dutton (Seattle), Jayanth K. Krishnan (Indiana – Maurer), Charlotte Ku (Texas A&M), Srividhya Ragavan (Texas A&M), Susan B. Schechter (UC-Berkeley), Aric K. Short (Texas A&M), Jeffrey Ellis Thomas (UMKC)


AALS Externship Committee Meeting and Dinner, 7:00 – 9:00 (Amber India, 25 Yerba Buena Lane)


Thursday, January 5:

Addressing Implicit Bias in Teaching, Clinical Legal Education Section, 8:30 – 10:15  (Continental Ballroom 4)      

Rachel Godsil (Seton Hall), Carol L. Izumi (UC-Hastings), Verna Myers (Verna Myers Consulting Group), Victoria Plaut (UC-Hastings)


AALS Clinical Legal Education Section Luncheon, 12:00 – 1:30 (Ticket Required)

This luncheon includes the presentation of the 2017 Pincus Award to Frank Askin (Rutgers) and Tom Geraghty (Northwestern)


AALS Discussion Group: Law School Curricula and Practice-Readiness: Perfect Partners or Strange Bedfellows?, 1:30 – 3:15 (Union Square 1&2)

Constance E. Bagley (Yale), Bradford Colbert (Mitchell | Hamline), Randy J. Diamond (Missouri), Claire Donohue (American), Kate Elengold (North Carolina), Michelle Falkoff (Northwestern), Andrew J. Haile (Elon), Norrinda Hayat (UDC), John D. King (Washington and Lee), Laurie S. Kohn (George Washington), M. Isabel Medina (Loyola  - New Orleans), Ann L. Nowak (Touro), David Anthony Santacroce (Michigan), Jessica Steinberg (George Washington), Jane K. Stoever (UC-Irvine), Bryan Taylor (Concordia), Paul R. Tremblay (Boston College)


Friday, January 6:

AALS Arc of Career Program, Chartering New Waters: Clinicians' Post-Tenure Reflections, 8:30 – 10:15 (Continental Ballroom 6)

Kristina Campbell (UDC), Patience A. Crowder (Denver, Susan R. Jones (George Washington), Laurie S. Kohn (George Washington), Karla M. McKanders (Tennessee), Jayesh Rathod (American), Robin Walker Sterling (Denver) Elizabeth Young (U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review)

January 2, 2017 in Conferences and Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

CLEA Newsletter Winter 2016-17


Together with the CLEA Newsletter Committee, I am very happy to announce that the Winter 2016-17 issue of the CLEA Newsletter has just been posted here:

In this issue, you'll find lots of interesting content, including: CLEA's Strategic Plan; articles on clinical teaching by Robert Kuehn (Washington Univ.-St. Louis), Jennifer Oliva & Valena Beety (WVU), Dana Malkus (St. Louis Univ.), and Rebecca Nieman (Thomas Jefferson); CLEA committee and advocacy updates; and several announcements about upcoming events at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco.  Plus, you'll find good news from our colleagues around the world.

Thanks, and Happy New Year

CLEA Newsletter Committee
Lauren Bartlett (Ohio Northern)
Tanya Asim Cooper (Pepperdine)
Susan Donovan (Alabama)
D'lorah Hughes (UCI Irvine)
Kate Kruse (Mitchell Hamline)

December 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sign-on Letter Opposing the Nomination of Sessions

Law professors at several schools—including Denver, Georgetown, Washington and Lee, U.C. Berkeley, Northwestern, and University of Chicago—have organized a sign-on letter asking senators to reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General because it "presents a very real threat to civil rights and civil liberties, to underrepresented groups and people of color, and to the principles of inclusion and tolerance we all hold dear."   They have also launched a related fundraising effort to take out ads in local newspapers targeting senators who are undecided about their vote. 

The letter already has 1100 signatures and counting.  You can add your signature at  The fundraising goal is $13,000 and the group has raised about $10,500 to pay for newspaper ads. You can pitch-in to the fundraising effort at

December 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The ABA sues the Dept. of Education to protect the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The ABA issued this statement describing its suit against the Department of Education to protect the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program after recent actions by the DOE to redefine qualifying work.

Here is an excerpt from the ABA's statement:

The suit, which also includes four individual plaintiffs who were denied eligibility under PSLF, details how the Department of Education changed the eligibility requirement for work that was clearly “public service” after already approving the work and after individuals made decisions and loan repayments based on those approvals. . . .

The complaint contends that the individual plaintiffs (Geoffrey Burkhart, Michelle Quintero-Millan, Jamie Rudert, and Kate Voigt) made financial and life decisions based on the program. Not only did they follow the rules of the program by making loan payments while employed in public service jobs, but three of the plaintiffs received verification from the DOE that their jobs qualified under the program. A fourth plaintiff, Quintero-Millan, believed she qualified because she worked in a public service job for a nonprofit that the Department of Education had already certified as qualifying for the program. The plaintiffs were later informed that their jobs no longer qualified and their previous payments did not count towards the program.

December 20, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Comparative Law for Spanish-English Lawyers: Legal Cultures, Legal Terms and Legal Practices

My very first job after law school was in Ecuador.  Pause and think about that.  As a newly-minted lawyer, my first job was in Spanish, not English; in a civil, not common law, jurisdiction; and in a country that I had never even visited before I moved there for a year.  And, not surprisingly, I struggled.  I declared victory the day I pieced together the vocabulary and the wherewithal to get my suits dry-cleaned.  Which is to say nothing of the struggle of learning the history, culture, context, and daily practice of Ecuadorian law.

A new book, Comparative Law for Spanish-English Lawyers: Legal Cultures, Legal Terms and Legal Practices / Derecho comparado para abogados anglo- e hispanoparlantes: Culturas jurídicas, términos jurídicos y prácticas jurídicas (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2016), takes a close look at the legal systems of the U.S., England, Spain, and Mexico to give bilingual lawyers a foundational understanding of the common principles and practices in these jurisdictions, as well as practical and doctrinal insights into a variety of English- and Spanish-speaking jurisdictions.  The book, written by Professors S.I. Strong of the University of Missouri, Katia Fach Gómez of the University of Zaragoza, and Laura Carballo Piñeiro of the University of Santiago de Compostela, examines “various types of legal authorities and how such materials are interpreted and applied in the two legal traditions” (7), discusses substantive areas of law and procedure, and then looks at etiquette and practice in the two traditions. The book is a bilingual text geared to helping those who are conversationally fluent in a second language achieve legal fluency. The authors envision the book being used in both group and individual study, and it is available in both hard copy and electronic form (Elgar is currently offering a discount on website sales). If you are interested in the book, visit Elgar for more information or contact Professor S.I. Strong.

December 16, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"The Privilege of Stillness" - Aleppo

The Privilege of Stillness


See the hordes of humans trying to escape, let it pass quickly.

See the buildings blown into dust, scroll faster.

See the child marred by mud and blood, let it hastily roll over you.

The mind hides from itself, defiantly shouting: I will not be moved. I simply cannot bear witness to this suffering. I cannot and I will not. I am choice. I am privilege. I am closed, clamped and wound down, tightly shut off and sealed. I will not be moved because I choose not to be moved.

See the hordes of humans trying to escape, let it pass quickly.

See the buildings blown into dust, scroll faster.

See the child marred by mud and blood, let it hastily roll over you.

Until the heaps of images and stacks of grief mount so high they finally tumble into a single question: why

Slowly cracks of light appear through doorway’s spine; slowly the wheels of the mind unlock and spin around reason like a tire falteringly trying to grip the pavement in a deluge. The mind no longer completely hidden from itself, softly responding:  It is for your own protection. The Color of Fear explains it well. I do not have the courage to face another reality, as it would alter mine. Validating your experience will surely invalidate my own. Your already broken actuality will absolutely break mine. Can I survive myself so that you might live? And with more questions, light spills through the doorway and wheel finds the groove.

See the hordes of humans trying to escape, look at the picture.

See the buildings blown into non-existence, open the article.

See the child marred by mud and blood, haunted, and finally read the words: “A complete meltdown of humanity.”


Fall into history, crash into sharing, stagger into realization: one minute of learning is never wasted, one ounce of compassion is never squandered, and one moment of shared humanity has the capacity to haphazardly propel you into the person you hope to be. Though it is often too late, it is never too late.

Now, move.

December 13, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Water your own grass"

I watched the little video below, and it completely reminded me of something I learned from Nancy Levit at a AALS Clinical Law Conference presentation a few years back. Nancy may not know it, but her advice profoundly changed something in me (and hopefully future generations of lawyers - thank you, thank you, thank you for your books Nancy and Doug)!

"The best advice I ever heard and internalized was to "water your own grass." This is applicable to so much in life be it work, relationship or friendship. If you truly care about something, invest in it, get curious about it, figure out how, even in small ways, you can improve it, and you will not regret the exercise. Even when you find aspects you don't appreciate (as you surely will because everything is "flawed"), your picture will be formed with such a new and complex understanding that it's impossible not to find beauty and some measure of clarity in such a tangled web. Good luck out there. Oh, and I almost forgot, this includes the "self" too, you beautiful, flawed, complicated human! (from my Facebook interwebs post this morning). Enjoy!


December 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Long Walk Home

Long walk home

For the first time today, I noticed I was walking like a Jamaican. Jamaicans don’t “walk” so much as they stroll, they saunter, they meander…and it wasn’t until about halfway home that I realized I wasn’t racing to one of the imaginary finish lines I often create in my mind. I was suddenly just walking. And that revolutionary act transported me to a world that I occupy but am not really a part of. The observation from those moments was enough for me to rethink my whole racing strategy because there was real, tangible joy to be found on the other side, where sandals meet the road.

During that long walk home, my eyes locked onto other eyes and held gazes that revealed humanities composed of infinite stories and ancestors, as complex, rich and meaningful as my own.  I felt and can internalize and identify with the phrase “the grass tickled my feet.” I have now heard the songs of birds while discovering a mahogany-magenta-maroon color that I’m not sure Crayola’s 96 has managed to capture in quite the same way as that flower. I heroically survived a tense encounter with a ferret (what Jamaicans call a rrrat – a hard r laced with a trace of disgust) as he watched me, watching him, watching me; both of us wary and thankful as we parted ways. And remarkably, my body remembers how to walk, though I have often created my own abnormal, unsustainable, ungodly rhythms that leave me sweating, exhausted and aching, my body knows my natural stride includes a gentle swinging of hips, though I have long tried to subdue it, and feet that don’t so much step but glide over asphalt and ant; how quickly I unlearned all the harsh lessons I’ve taught myself.  

When you suddenly appreciate how full a moment can be and see what was previously unseen, in reflection, you also come into close contact with what’s absent. On that long walk home, I did not think about the election once. I did not think about what I would have for dinner or a snack. I didn’t think about buying Christmas gifts or creating grocery lists or any lists at all. The omnipresent, self-induced anxiety cycle ceded for while allowing new prioritization and restructuring of a truth long suppressed: connection over technology, natural over manufactured, curiosity over fear, inhabiting over externalizing, and journey over destination.

And I want that for you, my dearest friends. I want you to walk with me, if even for just a few seconds. I know during this time of year, that during this time in history, that with a society constantly telling us there is not enough time and that we are not enough, telling us only about absence, lack, scarcity and need…that walking this way can seem impossible. But I am witness to what’s on the other side and my desire for you is stronger than the misguided belief of impossibility.  You can see humanity the way I saw it, hear the birds sing the way I heard them, experience color the way I saw it, you can trust and come home to yourself; forgetting by letting yourself remember what you have always known. Forget the broken hearts and promises, forget the election and divisiveness, forget the endless amount of work that will always exist, forget the real and self-created responsibilities, forget the hurt, the past and the pain for just a little while. Let your body do what you are convinced it doesn’t know how to do; let it lead you home. Connect. Commune. Wonder. Inhabit. And for just a little while, may your destination not be nearly as important as your journey. As they say in Jamaica, “Walk gud my friend, walk gud.”*

*An expression used to wish good fortune and a good trip on departing travelers (Wiwords)

December 2, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

JOBS: Executive Director of UCLA's Office of Public Interest Programs

Via Prof. Lisa Mead:





The UCLA School of Law is seeking a creative institution builder with sustained experience in public interest work to lead the School’s Office of Public Interest Programs (OPIP). OPIP is the principal intellectual and information center for public interest at UCLA School of Law. OPIP’s mission is to engage law students, faculty, lawyers, and the broader community in public service, through education, dialogue, and career development.

OPIP, as our overall public interest umbrella, has a range of important functions. OPIP engages students, alumni, and faculty in dialogue on a range of public interest topics by hosting a speaker series. It also serves as the career services office for students interested in pursuing summer and post-graduate positions in public interest and government, including by hosting panels on career choices, coordinating an annual public interest career day and other recruiting events, facilitating pro bono volunteer opportunities, and participating in and supervising public interest and government career counseling for students and alumni.

OPIP also oversees UCLA Law’s Summer Public Service Fellowship program, post-graduate public interest fellowships, and Loan Repayment Assistance Program for alumni in public service careers.  Finally, and importantly, OPIP administers our distinctive David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy (the Epstein Program, often known as EPILP), which attracts students with exceptional public interest backgrounds and trains them to become effective lawyers and leaders in a range of public interest settings.

The Executive Director will plan and oversee all aspects of OPIP, in close collaboration with the Epstein Program Faculty Director and Core Faculty, as well as other relevant law school faculty and administrators. The Executive Director will be responsible for the initiatives described above and will have the opportunity to expand and grow OPIP. The Executive Director will work to advance the School of Law’s public interest curricular offerings, including the Epstein Program’s core curriculum, and provide individualized academic counseling to support Epstein Program students in completing the Specialization. The Executive Director will serve as the principal spokesperson of OPIP both within the School and to external audiences, including through presentations and participation in conferences and other public events, and will strengthen existing relationships and develop new relationships with public interest alumni, public interest employers, and other allies. The Executive Director is expected to have substantial experience in and commitment to public interest work, as well as leadership and fundraising capacity, which will be crucial to the growth and development of OPIP.

This is a year-round, academic, non-tenure track position with an expected start date of June 1, 2017.

Minimum academic requirements include a J.D. or equivalent advanced degree from a U.S. school and an excellent academic record. The ideal candidate will have at least five years of practice in public interest and/or government work or comparable experience, as well as significant leadership capacity and initiative. The salary and level of appointment will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

Confidential review of applications, nominations and expressions of interest will begin immediately and will continue until an appointment is made. To ensure full consideration, applications should be received by Friday, January 13, 2017 but will be considered thereafter until the position is filled. Please apply online at by submitting a cover letter, resume, and the names and addresses of at least three professional references.

The University of California seeks to recruit and retain a diverse workforce as a reflection of our commitment to serve the people of California, to maintain the excellence of the University, and to offer our students richly varied disciplines, perspectives and ways of knowing and learning. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age or protected veteran status.

November 30, 2016 in Job Opportunities & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 28, 2016

5 Questions for Emily Broad Leib

In the spirit of thanksgiving and the abundance of food most of us partook in last week, I thought this would be a great time to continue that theme and learn about the amazing Food Law and Policy Clinic that Emily Broad Leib supervises at Harvard.  Here's a recent interview I had with Emily about the interesting work she is doing.  Enjoy!

  1. I recently saw that Fortune and Food & Wine Magazines named you as the number one most influential woman in food and drink for 2016. This seems like a pretty big deal! 

For the past three years, Food & Wine and Fortune Magazine have put out a list of the most innovative women in food & drink. I was incredibly surprised and humbled to be included at the top of the list! This honor was mostly in recognition of the work of my clinic, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), on the issue of food waste. 62.5 million tons of food is wasted annually in the U.S., presenting a grave threat to our economy, health, and environment. While there are a variety of reasons for this pervasive waste, we’ve come to learn that much of this waste results from laws regulating the food system.

My work in date labels and the broader issue of food waste began from a clinic project we conducted on behalf of Daily Table, an organization that aims to increase access to healthy and affordable food by rescuing and selling surplus foods that would have otherwise gone to waste. To answer Daily Table’s legal questions, clinic students examined the laws in Massachusetts regarding date labels on food. When we zoomed out from Massachusetts to see what surrounding states were doing, we found a dizzying array of state laws, many of which restrict sale or donation of past-date foods. This is despite the fact that these dates are generally intended as indicators of quality, not safety, and for the most part food will still be safe and wholesome after that date has passed. Our work on date labels continues, and we’ve branched out to tackle other policies impacting food waste, such as food safety regulations, tax incentives for food donation, and liability protections for food donation.

  1. You are currently (among many other things), the Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. There are few law schools, if any, that have this type of clinic.  Could you please take a moment to describe the impetus for this clinic and the types of projects and cases on which students work?

When I was in law school, my main focus was human rights law. I didn’t know anything about food policy until my post-law-school fellowship in the Mississippi Delta, working with community partners improve health and economic opportunity in that region. Early in my time, community partners asked for legal assistance regarding local farmers markets. Food is closely linked to both health and economic opportunity. The Mississippi Delta is an agricultural region, yet there was hardly any production of food, and severe food access challenges. At the same time, many Mississippians were exploring opportunities to produce and sell farm products, but faced legal barriers. Communities around the country were struggling with similar legal and policy questions, and I learned that law students were eager to work on these issues. The Food Law and Policy Clinic aims to meet these needs. The mission of the clinic is to increase access to healthy food, support small-scale and sustainable food producers in breaking into new commercial markets, and reduce the waste of healthy, wholesome food.

In order to better explain the type of work that we do, I’ll continue on the topic of date labels described above. Since our initial project with Daily Table, students have had the opportunity to create a range of reports, resources, and materials, including:

  • Preparing a confidential legal memo on date label laws, liability protections, and food safety risks for our client organization, Daily Table.
  • Drafting a major national report, The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste (published in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council), which analyzes the laws regarding date labels and explains how these labels contribute to an alarming amount of unnecessary food waste.
  • Helping to plan, produce, edit, and distribute a short film about the problem of misleading date labels, entitled EXPIRED? Food Waste in America.
  • Providing guidance to federal legislators in drafting of the Food Date Labeling Act, which was introduced in 2016 in the U.S. House and Senate and aims to clarify and standardize date labels nationally.
  • Helping me to prepare and provide testimony on date labels and other food waste policy issues to the House Agriculture Committee as part of the first-ever federal hearing on food waste, entitled Food Waste from Field to Table.

When I first started FLPC, we were the only food law and policy clinic in the nation, but this field is growing, and we are working hard to help build the field. The past two years, we hosted the Food Law Student Leadership Summit, which brought together 100 law students from 50 law schools nationally to learn about pressing food law and policy issues and network with one another and with leading faculty and attorneys in this field. And this year, we helped launch the Food Law Student Network (for students) and the Academy of Food Law and Policy (for faculty and institutions). This academic year, we are leading a consortium of nine clinics and programs at seven law schools to examine and propose recommendations for the U.S. Farm Bill. It is exciting to see this field grow, and to work with fantastic colleagues and partners around the country!

  1. As a clinician, I think it’s so important for our students to see our passion for the clients and issues we serve.  Why do you have a passion for the type of legal advocacy you are taking part in at Harvard through the Food Law and Policy Clinic? 

I feel incredibly lucky that my work aligns with my passions. As mentioned above, I went to law school to pursue a career in human rights. What can be more basic than helping communities to pursue the right to food, by providing access to affordable, safe, and healthy food? I also value the opportunity that I have to be creative. Food law and policy is still a nascent field, which provides ample opportunities for finding new solutions and brainstorming creative approaches. Lastly, I love the educational part of my work – exposing law students to the field of food law and offering them opportunities to practice policy and advocacy skills, which have not typically been part of the law school curriculum.

  1. You are also the Deputy Director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. I can potentially envision synergies between both of the clinics you supervise.   

Yes, there are incredible synergies! The FLPC is one of two clinics housed within the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation; the other is the Health Law and Policy Clinic (HLPC). While there are certainly distinctions between the substance of the two clinics, there is also a lot of overlap and we have worked together on several major initiatives. One is a project called Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS), which was a four-year project focused on state and federal policy solutions to reduce type 2 diabetes. The other is our Food is Medicine initiative, which identifies key legal and policy levers to help increase access to healthy food as part of both prevention and treatment of chronic disease. The concept of food is medicine is still novel, but is quickly gaining traction. Our team undertakes a variety of research and advocacy to promote the effective integration of food into healthcare coverage where applicable.

  1. Speaking of synergies, what are some creative ways the directors/faculty/supervisors of the numerous legal clinics at your school stay connected with each other?

Harvard is lucky to have a very large and robust clinical program, but because of the size it is difficult to stay connected. Fortunately, we have a variety of cross-clinical working groups and committees, including a clinical workshop committee that organizes workshops on topics such as clinical scholarship, use of technology, and better addressing race and diversity in our clinics. We also have periodic social gatherings and holiday parties that bring together clinicians. I also work closely with our other clinics, as food overlaps with many other topics. In addition to our collaboration with the Health Law and Policy Clinic (mentioned above), we have also conducted clinical projects in partnership with the Emmett Environmental Law Clinic, International Human Rights Clinic, and Transactional Law Clinics. I love these cross-clinic partnerships because they offer a great opportunity to bring together different expertise to help solve problems!

November 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pepperdine's Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic Advocating for Prisoner Rights

I am very proud of our brilliant students in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic, under the direction of Prof. Jeremy Rosen.  Please see this story with video of their recent oral argument in San Francisco where they represented our client, a detainee suing the Maricopa County (Arizona) Jail for civil rights violations. They did excellent work. 

Here is a brief description of the case:

The Ninth Circuit appointed the Pepperdine Ninth Circuit Clinic to represent pre-trial detainee Charles Byrd who filed a section 1983 lawsuit challenging Maricopa County’s practice of having female guards routinely observe male inmates at extremely close quarters while they are using the toilets and taking showers. Such cross-gender observations have been routinely disallowed when the guards are male and the prisoners are female and case law suggests the same should be the case here. The district court exercised its authority under the Prison Litigation Reform Act to dismiss Byrd’s lawsuit at the screening stage. The students argued on appeal that such dismissal was improper because Byrd plainly stated a claim for constitutional violation.

November 23, 2016 in Clinic Victories, Current Affairs, Prisoner's Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sunrise in Kingston

Dear All,

Exercising gratitude seems to be more akin to a skill than anything else.  It is not something that comes naturally to me, though I wish I could claim the opposite. I would love to be a person who walks around in the Disney version of the world, singing with a bluebird on my shoulder, believing the best in myself and in my fellow humans, but unfortunately this just isn’t my innate reality.  In fact, as I age, I find myself more inclined to pessimism, pragmatism, realism (whatever your flavor). I crave comfort, stability, and certainty and yet, the older I get, the more I also realize that this is a way of being which I will never be given. The world is a spectrum with no black or white, composed of varying stages of gray that muddle, nuance and jumble up the certainty I so desire.

The truth reveals itself to me over and over and over again: you are constantly changing, everything is movement, in flux, shifting, even those things you believed would last forever can become distant memories, but do not worry, you have and always will adapt. Sometimes this adaptation process is miserable.  It can be incredibly myopic, panicked and painful to trudge through; there are times when I fail to use healthy coping skills, falling into co-dependent relationships, eating every cookie in my path, and isolating from those who bring me home to myself. And there are also times when I adapt with a little more grace. One tool that has helped me accept uncertainty with wonder instead of fear is gratitude: holding it widely and expressing it liberally and openly, is one of the ways I move into better space. During these moments, I realize that darkness and difficulty absolutely have their place in my life. Without these, I would never experience the joy, empowerment and pride that comes with triumphing over adversity.  Without these, I would take for granted and fail to relish that which I find precious in my life.  Sad songs wills always have their place in my world.  Trouble and dissonance will as well. For with these hardships, opportunities for transformation abound. So today, I’m shouting from the blogosphere my gratitude because I deeply want this to be a time of great transformation for me personally and for society. Right now, I’m calling it -- we are about to become much more complex, amazing and beautiful versions of ourselves, even if it hurts. And I will get through the hurt by embracing what I am grateful for over and over and over again. So...

To the safety-pinners, thank you for showing me that I am valued even when I have received messages telling me that my life and my vote do not matter. To community activist, educators and leaders, who I aspire to be like and push me to do more, who say we can never rest, and who unceasingly remind me that I need to continually educate myself and learn from people who are impacted by whatever cause I happen to be fighting for: “because those closest to the problem are often closest to the solution,” thank you. To those friends who have become family, I can never thank you enough for how you’ve bounded us together with ties of unending and constant presence, through all the busy, over oceans, with songs and videos, laughter and commiseration, lifting me up and bringing me home to myself, reminding me of my beauty and my value when I start to doubt it; my only desire is that I can return all that you have given me.  To those who voted differently from me but who have taken time to have meaningful conversations about their reasons, helping me to form a more complete picture of the range of viewpoints and ideas that exist beyond my own, thank you. And to the sun who teaches me a great lesson daily, you cause me to sweat pools of sweat that I didn’t even know I could while you dry my clothes that are out on the line, you burn my skin while I swim in the ocean that you heat, you seemingly disappear during your omnipresent cycle, but I’m always happy to see the light you bring upon your return; your capability to both sustain and destroy, amazes me -- my health and my humanity are tied up in learning how and when to bask in you and take shelter from you.

Eternally grateful,

Inga N. Laurent

(Sunrise in Kingston) 


November 15, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Call for Proposals: ILTL Summer Conference: Teaching Cultural Competency and Other Professional Skills Suggested by ABA Standard 302

Via Prof. Kelly Terry:




Institute for Law Teaching and Learning—Summer 2017 Conference

Teaching Cultural Competency and Other Professional Skills Suggested by ABA Standard 302

July 7-8, 2017

University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law


ABA Standard 302 requires all law schools to establish learning outcomes in certain areas, such as knowledge of substantive and procedural law, legal analysis and reasoning, and the exercise of professional and ethical responsibilities.  While requiring outcomes in these areas, however, the ABA also has given law schools discretion under Standard 302(d) to individualize their programs by establishing learning outcomes related to “other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.”  These other professional skills “are determined by the law school and may include skills such as  interviewing, counseling, negotiation, fact development and analysis, trial practice, document drafting, conflict resolution, organization and management of legal work, collaboration, cultural competency and self-evaluation.”  This language encourages law schools to be innovative and to differentiate themselves by creating learning outcomes that are consistent with their own unique values and particular educational mission.  

The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning invites proposals for conference workshops addressing the many ways that law schools are establishing learning outcomes related to “other professional skills,” particularly the skills of cultural competency, conflict resolution, collaboration, self-evaluation, and other relational skills.  Which, if any, of the outcomes suggested in Standard 302(d) have law schools established for themselves, and why did they select those outcomes?  How are law professors teaching and assessing skills such as cultural competency, conflict resolution, collaboration, and self-evaluation?  Have law schools established outcomes related to professional skills other than those suggested in Standard 302(d)?  If so, what are those skills, and how are professors teaching and assessing them?

The Institute welcomes proposals for workshops on the teaching and assessment of such skills in doctrinal, clinical, externship, writing, seminar, hybrid, and interdisciplinary courses.  Workshops can address the teaching or assessment of such skills in first-year courses, upper-level courses, required courses, electives, academic support teaching, or extracurricular programs.  Workshops can present innovative teaching materials, teaching methods, course designs, assessment methods, curricular, or program designs.  Each workshop should include materials that participants can use during the workshop and also when they return to their campuses.  Presenters should model best practices in teaching methods by actively engaging the workshop participants.  

The Institute invites proposals for 60-minute workshops consistent with a broad interpretation of the conference theme.  To be considered for the conference, proposals should be one single-spaced page (maximum) and should include the following information:

  • the title of the workshop;
  • the name, address, telephone number, and email address of the presenter(s);
  • a summary of the contents of the workshop, including its goals and methods; and
  • an explanation of the interactive teaching methods the presenter(s) will use to engage the audience.


The Institute must receive proposals by February 1, 2017.  Submit proposals via email to Kelly Terry, Co-Director, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, at


Conference Details


Schedule of Events:

The UALR Bowen School of Law will host a welcome reception on the evening of Thursday, July 6.  The conference will consist of concurrent workshop sessions that will take place at the law school all day on Friday, July 7 and until the early afternoon on Saturday, July 8.  


Travel and Lodging:

A block of hotel rooms for conference attendees has been reserved at the Little Rock Marriot Hotel, 3 Statehouse Plaza, Little Rock, AR 72201.  The discounted rate will be available until June 5, 2017.  Reservations may be made online by using this link: Group rate for UALR School of Law Room Block July 2017.  Reservations also may be made by calling the hotel’s reservations department at 877-759-6290 and referencing the UALR Bowen School of Law/ ILTL Conference Room Block.



The conference fee for participants is $400, which includes materials, meals during the conference (two breakfasts and two lunches), and the welcome reception on Thursday evening, July 6.  The conference fee for presenters is $300.  


For more information:

Please visit our website ( or contact one of the ILTL Co-Directors:


Professor Kelly Terry; 501-324-9946


Professor Emily Grant; 785-670-1677


Associate Dean Sandra Simpson; 509-313-3809

November 12, 2016 in Conferences and Meetings, RFP | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2016

In Praise of a Colleague

I have the honor of running a mediation clinical program at Columbia Law School with Alexandra Carter. I should note that Alex is the Director of the Clinic and I am the Associate Director. I have to note that distinction to help you understand how much of an honor it is to run this clinic with her. Because, even though Alex is the boss, it never feels that way to me. She never treats me like she’s the boss. When she introduces me, she always says, “This is my colleague.” My ideas for curriculum, for projects, for partnerships, etc. all the way down to the minutia are considered with equal merit to her own—and, if I’m wrong about that, then she does such a great job of making it seem that way that the factual difference is meaningless.

That little preface above brings me to this: her ideas are better than mine. A clear example of this fact seems worth sharing, now more than ever. When our President Elect Designate was still just the Republican nominee a report hit the media about his various sexual assaults. These weren’t accusations and they weren’t second-hand accounts. These were descriptions of assaults that he, himself, admitted willingly to a reporter on a tour bus in 2005. He offered a defense of his comments: these remarks were made in private (or so he thought), and they were mere locker room talk amongst the boys.

I had plans to take a minute and address the comments in our class. Alex had a different idea, and, like I said, her ideas are better than mine.

I was supervising a case a team of our students were mediating on the Tuesday after the story broke. It was a difficult, emotionally charged mediation that drained the team of students and me. So, when I got a text from Alex saying that we were holding class in the Dodge Fitness Center on Columbia’s main campus I didn’t have the mental or emotional capacity left to think anything about it other than I needed to make a mental note not to go to our regular classroom. The mediation ran long which made the students and I late to class. When we arrived there the class sat, in a tiny, sweltering locker room in a circle, passing a talking piece, talking about “locker room talk.” Alex decided to depart from our regularly scheduled program to bring us an important message about law school education: we oughtn’t forget that the law affects people. Our leaders’ words and actions affect people.

Any professor reading this knows how precious classroom time is. Alex willingly gave away 3 hours of class time to find a way for our students to talk about the law, our leaders, and the people they affect. She also modeled responsible reaction for our students. She honored their emotional response to President Elect Designate Trump’s words and facile explanation, but didn’t allow them to live in the righteousness of outrage. She showed them that taking offense wasn’t enough--they also had to take action. She showed them how to reclaim the locker room space for a new and better kind of “locker room talk.”

Oh, and remember how I told you above that Alex treats my ideas with equal merit to her own? Well, having the class sit in a circle and pass a talking piece is a technique she learned from me. It’s a technique American Indian tribes have been using since time immemorial to prevent and address conflict. It’s a technique that I was able to show Alex because when I was a law student in her mediation clinic I undertook a project to design a curriculum to begin teaching tribal dispute resolution in law schools. It’s a project, a student project mind you, that she took so much interest in that it became a course of legal study at Columbia Law School. From there it spread to several law schools: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Yale, to name a few. It was my idea to create a curriculum to make tribal dispute resolution a course of legal study in law schools. It was Alex’s idea to actually implement the curriculum and actually launch a course—the first course of its kind in an ABA accredited law school. Like I said, her ideas are better than mine.


Linked here is an article the Wall Street Journal wrote on the locker room class Alex led (caveat: it's behind a pay wall). My only note is that it describes a Peacemaking Circle as a "mediation technique" and it is not. It’s a technique Indigenous People around the world--especially in America--have been using since before history began being recorded.

November 11, 2016 in Clinic News, Current Affairs, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

News and Notes on Clinical and Experiential Education at Pepperdine University School of Law

In this annual season of program updates, I am happy to share news from Pepperdine about our continuing efforts to expand and improve the programs of clinical and experiential education. This has been a busy year of new projects and curricular reforms.

Curriculum  Reform:

As I noted here, in 2014, Pepperdine became the first school in California to proactively adopt a version of the California State Bar’s TFARR proposals. Our current 3Ls will be the first class to graduate with a requirement of 15 units of experiential education and 50 hours of pro bono service. This year, we refined that requirement to accommodate student demand and to balance other important experiences in law school. Now, students must complete 15 units of experiential courses or their equivalent, and the equivalent may include limited legal work outside of credit bearing courses. Here are more details on our new experiential learning requirements.

Pro Bono:

The 50-hour pro bono requirement has driven exceptional student demand for clinics and practicum courses, in addition to co-curricular pro bono opportunities. We are constantly working to generate and promote pro bono opportunities for students.  For example, with generous grant support, we have developed an excellent partnership with OneJustice to offer multiple Rural Justice Bus trips throughout the year to underserved areas of Southern California. These limited-scope clinics focus primarily on veterans services in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. We have developed these trips largely for 1Ls, so they can have early live-client experience before they are eligible for clinics, externships and practicums.  Some are meeting clients under supervision within weeks of beginning law school. Here are more details on the pro bono requirement.

Expanding Externships:

In the wake of the ABA’s dramatic revisions to field placement standards at the beginning of this semester, we undertook a thorough examination of our externship program (timely as the ABA just completed a site visit last week). After provisional experiments this semester, and considering significant student demand, Pepperdine now permits paid externships in addition to our typical, unpaid placements in judicial, governmental, public interest, and corporate offices. In Los Angeles, this is especially advantageous for our students working in entertainment, media, and sports practices. 

Our students may take up to 22 units of out-of-classroom credit during law school, which includes all field placement courses, and they may take up to 10 units of externship credit per term. These full-time externships are common for students working in federal circuit court their second year, and they are essential for our Washington, DC Externship Semester. Here are more details on the externship programs.

New Clinics:

In 2016, we launched two new clinics.  In the Restoration & Justice Clinic, students represent victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in Los Angeles.  Prof. Tanya Cooper has developed  important partnerships with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and CAST LA to advocate for clients of gender-based crimes, seeking remedies and orders to ensure liberty, safety and empowerment for our clients.  

On the foundation of an IRS grant, we launched the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic in downtown Los Angeles. This clinic has a particular focus on ESL clients in downtown and East LA.  In its first full semester, the clinic had a full wait list within days of opening registration. Under the exceptional direction of Supervising Attorney Isai Cortez, the LITC is thriving on Skid Row alongside the Legal Aid Clinic.

Now with six standard JD clinics and three clinics in the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine offers about 160 seats in clinical courses each year, accommodating about 80% of all law students by the time they graduate. 

Here are more details on all of our clinics: Community Justice Clinic, Fair Employment & Housing Mediation Clinic, Investor Advocacy Clinic, Legal Aid Clinic, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, Mediation Clinic, Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic, Restoration & Justice Clinic, and Special Education Advocacy Clinic.

New Practicum Courses:

To increase live-client courses, and to offer more specialized practice areas, we have developed several practicum courses in fruitful collaboration with excellent partners. Practicums give us a platform to innovate and experiment, especially when institutional resources are tight. These are exciting works in progress. 

Practicums are field placement courses in collaboration with partners in focused practice areas, reserved for Pepperdine students who apply directly to the partner agencies. The partners provide supervision in practice, and law professors provide academic framing and guided reflection.  Presently, we offer three active practicum courses with others in development.

The Employment Law Practicum is our newest practicum course. Students work with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County in its Workers’ Rights Clinic. Their work involves individual representation, policy research, and program development in immigrant communities. 

We also work with the great lawyers at NLSLA in the Veterans Law Practicum (Los Angeles).  Students represent veterans in diverse controversies, applications, and appeals for benefits in LA area Veterans Administration offices through NLSLA's Veterans Initiative.

In the Veterans Law Practicum (Ventura), our largest and longest running practicum course, students work with the Ventura County Public Defender to represent clients in Veterans Treatment Court, a collaborative court with restorative justice, diversionary sentencing, and rehabilitative programs for veterans.    

We have set an ambitious standard that every student will graduate with diverse, intensive practice experience with live-clients and committed experiences in public interest practice. This is a demanding expression of our mission and pedagogical priorities, and it creates perpetual challenges to improve existing programs and to expand into new forms, partnerships, and practice areas. We have all hands on deck, from our dedicated clinical faculty, to adjuncts and supervising attorneys, to doctrinal faculty who are taking on faculty advising, imagining new clinics, and integrating experiential components into their courses. 

This is an exciting season for clinical and experiential education at Pepperdine. Like so many schools, we are pressed between rising demand for clinics, externships and experiential learning and intensifying pressures in enrollment and budgets. We have had a full year building these programs to better serve our students, clients, and communities.  

October 27, 2016 in Clinic News, New Clinical Faculty, New Clinical Programs, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Recap of the 6th Annual Southern Clinical Conference – “Celebrating the Work: Innovations, Traditions, and Disruptions in Clinical Legal Education” (Oct. 13-15, 2016)

At this year’s Southern Clinical Conference, the Charlotte School of Law (CharlotteLaw) welcomed close to forty legal and clinical educators representing eighteen law schools to celebrate the innovations, traditions, and disruptions in our work as clinical educators. Being a city reflective of tradition, innovation, and (yes) disruption, the City of Charlotte proved to be an appropriate site given the theme of this year’s conference. Further, being a law school with mission pillars dedicated to (1) serving the underserved, (2) producing practice-ready attorneys, and (3) ensuring positive student outcomes, CharlotteLaw was the ideal host for the conference.

The following is a recap of this year’s conference highlights:

• On Thursday night, the conference kicked off with a great informal gathering of attendees at the Aloft Hotel in uptown Charlotte.

• On Friday morning, CharlotteLaw’s Dean Jay Conison gave conference attendees a warm welcome to both the Queen City and to our school. He extolled his support for clinical legal education and emphasized CharlotteLaw’s commitment to experiential education generally citing our thirteen live client clinics, expansive externship and cooperative placement programs, and one of the country’s only post graduate law firm incubators.

• For the opening plenary session, Professor Bob Kuehn of Washington University School of Law presented ‘Measuring the Value of Clinical Education.’ As per usual, Bob did not fail to impress us with his amazing empirical research showing the benefits of clinical legal education in relation to student job outcomes. He further shared his ongoing research into whether there is any (positive or negative) effect of clinical legal education upon student bar outcomes.

• Conference attendees were given a chance to learn more about the disruptions (North Carolina House Bill 2 (HB2) and the killing of Keith Scott) affecting the City of Charlotte during a lively lunch panel held at Bentley’s Restaurant (a restaurant on the 27th floor of Charlotte Plaza that showcases a great skyline view of Charlotte). Moderated by Charlotte Law’s Clinical Director Scott Sigman, the panelists for this forum (all involved with said disruptions) included CharlotteLaw Professor Christie Matthews, CharlottLaw Graduate and ACLU Board Member Brandy Haynes, and Charlotte City Council Members John Autry and LaWana Mayfield. For those of you missed this fantastic lunch panel, here’s a link to the video.

• Our Friday evening reception was held at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in uptown Charlotte. Our attendees enjoyed wonderful company, great food, wine/beer, and unimpeded viewing access to the museum’s newest exhibits. In juxtaposition to the events inside our Friday reception, Republican Nominee Donald Trump was giving a speech a block away from us at the Charlotte Convention Center. Reports are that at least a couple of our attendees joined the throng of Trump protestors outside the Convention Center!

• On Saturday, two of our most favorite clinicians, Alex Scherr (UGA) and Carwina Weng (Indiana), presented the conference’s closing plenary – “Too Much of a Good Thing? Integrating Outcomes into In-House and Externship Clinics.” Given the new push towards measuring outcomes in legal education, this highly educational and interactive presentation provided us innovative strategies, challenging us all to become better clinicians and closed our conference on an amazing note.

• All in all, there were twenty presentations (plenary, sessions, works-in-progress, panels) featured at this year’s conference. Each one was engaging and fantastic.

• One last shout out to my fellow conference planning committee members – Anne Hornsby (Alabama), Danny Schaffzin (Memphis), Kendall Kerew (Georgia State), Lisa Martin (Catholic), Robert Lancaster (Louisiana State), Alex Scherr (Georgia), and Crystal Shin (William & Mary). You guys are the best!

• Next year’s Southern Clinical Conference will be held at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Everybody should mark their calendar when the ‘Save-the-Date’ comes out in the near future!

October 21, 2016 in Conferences and Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A lesson on fear: how re-locating to Jamaica increased my empathy for supporters of Donald Trump


As the plane descended at dusk over a hazy patch of lush, green island, surrounded by the sea, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what my life would be like for the next nine months.  I have not been in such an unpredictable situation in ages. Like most Americans, I live in an environment that is almost entirely predictable, to the point of even seeming mundane, and so the idea of moving to Jamaica to research restorative justice for nine months on a Fulbright Grant was exciting in theory.  As I moved from the theoretical into the practice of living a new reality, I was anxious. In minutes, I would be landing in a world wholly unfamiliar, one that I had only read and heard about but never experienced. 

I had a heightened awareness that safety could be an issue here.  This message was reinforced in a multitude of ways: during orientation, in the news, from locals, past visitors, in on-line forums, the campus security page on the university website, an endless amount of information conveying the importance of safety. The instant I touched the ground, images emphasizing this perception were omnipresent. In Kingston, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a security guard, they are everywhere - at the entrance to every gated community, in and outside every supermarket, mini-market and gas-station.  The ATM doors lock behind you, roads are littered with “sleeping policemen” (speedbumps), walls and chain link fences surround most everything, you cannot even drive into a parking lot without having to pick up a card from a security guard that you must present before you leave to ensure you are the rightful owner of the vehicle that you’re driving or riding in. For the first time in a long time, my safety seemed to be in question.

I envisioned a difficult but manageable adjustment to my new life, but I morphed into a person I didn’t quite recognize. I was living out the potential reality of what I imagine many of my fellow Americans, who support Donald Trump feel, I was shackled by my fear. I had no context for the world I was entering and therefore no baseline for the danger or lack of danger that actually existed, but all the signs pointed toward warnings and so I heeded them. My body and my mind assumed worst case scenarios, creating a victim-persona that needed protection rather than acknowledging that I am a capable, adaptable, empowered adult who has maneuvered life relatively well.  Generally, I am a very optimistic person, who intensely longs to see the best in people and our world, but I have to admit that I was in total lock-down. I felt horrible and within the first 24 hours, I was second-guessing my decision, as my opportunity had morphed into a difficult challenge. Everything became puzzling and substandard; simple adversities seemed to need herculean strength to overcome. This reality was exhausting.

My malaise, discomfort and the person I was becoming came alarmingly into focus during one of my walks home. I was on my way back from campus to my apartment, which is about ¾ of a mile away in a fairly isolated but magnificently lush, green, gorgeous valley.  The grounds are surrounded by a chain link fence and there is a 24 hour security checkpoint for all persons entering. It was a balmy Friday afternoon, I was sweating, uncomfortable and in a rush to get into the one air-conditioned room in my home, when I saw a man, probably in his 20s walking on the road.  The phrase “he doesn’t seem like he belongs here” rolled around in my head. Alarm bells rang, thoughts of how I would fight and what I would do if attacked raged through my head and adrenaline pumped. I steeled myself, put on the nastiest face I could muster and practically stomped past him. I was momentarily proud of myself for projecting such a hard-ass appearance and “saving myself” from potential catastrophe.  I walked past my house in case he was around the corner plotting on how to break in my apartment. I was being “safe” and “using my common sense.” I spent the rest of the afternoon with a nagging feeling, listening for sounds, and worrying. 

Simultaneously, I had a sense of unease with myself and my behaviors. I kept looking at the situation, thinking about the many ways that “keeping safe” prevented fostering connection. I knew this protectionist mentality was not aligning with how I want to be in the world and would eventually stop me from understanding Jamaica.  And the use of that word “belong” was really the final straw. Who was I, a foreigner, to talk about belonging? This is a word that has been used to justify horrific profiling, discrimination and worse, and here I was “othering” to preserve my stuff?!? I just couldn’t stop thinking about the list of things I needed to “protect:” my passport, ID, money, things. I was convinced that I would crumble and wouldn’t survive without them.  I was completely identifying with things, as if my very being were being threatened. I realized this thinking was not healthy, and I knew I had to get out of this space, but I didn’t entirely feel motivated. In fact, I felt strangely, righteously justified in defending my things against any and every perceived threat at almost any cost. This mentality was a downward spiral that lead to intense consumerism. I kept shopping to buy more things that I thought would make me feel comfortable, which of course would put more at risk of being taken, and none of my purchases could make me feel better because what I really wanted was safety and connection. To feel pseudo-safe, I stuffed myself, stuffed down my feelings, locked up physically and emotionally. I knew I could not live this way, but escaping the reality my mind had created was immensely difficult.

Mercifully, it all changed in an instant, well an evening…the way that life often does. I was invited to see Garvey. The warmth of the locals who had offered to take my friend and I was instantly soothing and my self-created distress started melting away. The musical was phenomenal, and I was instantly drawn into the story, mostly forgetting about the worries of “safety.”  Occasionally, small thoughts would pop up about how I would get home in the dark, but I was determined to delight in this experience, to stay in the moment and soak in every second of this spectacular piece of art that was moving my soul. At the end of the night, one of my new friends took me home and as I lay down, exhausted from so many emotions, I knew a shift had occurred. In the morning, I opened my eyes and my first thoughts were of the warmth from the rays of sun as they streamed through the window across my skin. I walked into my living room and didn’t cringe immediately at the heat, but recognized how my body had comfortably adjusted. I looked out my front doors in time to see a stunningly beautiful sunrise.

Through kindness and connection with others, I had come back to myself.  I choose an apple instead of candy for breakfast. I didn’t feel the need to shop for more stuff. I started writing, turned on my music, read a book, and my heart exploded when I saw my best friend’s children smile at me on FaceTime.  I stopped waging a war against the ants that swarmed the garbage and learned to tie a small bag up high and take it out when I leave the house.  I am open again. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think about safety, I am just not consumed by it.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and view it as such again instead of as a challenge. I’m excited to make new friends and to learn a new way of being in the world; the industriousness of the people that I have already witnessed has amazed me, and I look forward to learning more.

In reflecting on my first few days in Kingston, I now have a little more insight on fear and how it can co-opt us. I was momentarily inconsolable, I watched myself become someone that I was not proud of but I didn’t know how to change. In the end, I was moved by what always moves me in this life: connection, music and dancing.  These reminded me that we are all just trying to live our best lives. We are doing the best with our situation. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. And while it’s true there may be some harsh realities, I was creating a story, nothing had actually happened, I was my own worst enemy. Living in that place of fear did nothing to protect me, and worse, it prevented me from accessing the connection I really needed and from seeing beauty and light. Fear can be both a reality and a state of mind, and living there, whether real or perceived, is an awful place to be.

I had to ask myself how I would have reacted if someone had criticized my fear or manifestations of it. My situation highlighted that the feelings underlying the fear mentality are valid and deserve to be met with compassion and problem solving rather than chiding and dismissal. This transition has given me new perspective on what this election can be about for me. I can listen to someone’s fears, even if they manifest in an unappealing way, because I too have the capacity to act out of alignment with who I want to be in this world.  I can reckon with the need that is underlying the fear, making people feel safe, respected and whole, because that is what’s required to move us all into better space.


October 19, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Columbia Law School to Design and Teach Alternative Dispute Resolution Curriculum With the Educational Arm of the United Nations


Columbia Law School will develop a program to train U.N. diplomats and personnel in negotiation techniques and conflict resolution, under an agreement signed this week by Columbia University and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The partnership grew out of a multi-year effort by Columbia Law School Professor Alexandra Carter ’03 to teach alternative dispute resolution to U.N. diplomats in New York City. Since 2012, Carter—the director of clinical education at the Law School and head of the Mediation Clinic—has led UNITAR’s negotiation workshops for women diplomats.
A champion of mediation as a critical tool in resolving conflicts, Carter envisions a larger and evolving international collaboration between UNITAR and Columbia University. She touts the global concerns and international reach of many of the Law School’s ten clinics, and credits Law School Dean Gillian Lester, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, for making “international engagement a major pillar of her deanship.”
“Columbia Law School’s clinics move global and national policy developments, in addition to serving many individual clients,” said Carter. “Over the last decade, the Mediation Clinic has worked with transnational organizations like the United Nations, as well as foreign governments, federal and state courts, and law schools, to advance the practice of mediation, negotiation, and global peace building.
“The Mediation Clinic will be the focal and contact point for the new curriculum and trainings, though over time we expect to bring together many of our experts from other schools and disciplines. We are starting in New York—with the largest diplomatic corps—but we have already received requests for proposals abroad.”
‘Opportunities for Our Students’
Under the supervision of Carter and Lecturer in Law Shawn Watts ’12, Columbia Law School students in the Mediation Clinic work to resolve a wide range of real-world cases involving commercial, employment, housing, and family disputes. Carter sees great opportunities in the new UNITAR partnership for students who have already studied the basics of negotiation.
“Columbia Law School students will be intimately involved in the design of these training programs, they will assist in the classrooms, and they will have an opportunity for substantive interactions with diplomats and change agents from all over the world,” she said.
In addition to teaching her Law School courses, Carter has taught mediation to private- and public-sector groups, as well as to international academic audiences, and she serves on the Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee for the New York State Unified Court System. In January, Carter and Watts helped conduct the first Peace Summit at Tokyo’s International Christian University, where students, faculty, and diplomats from nine nations studied the policy and practice of mediation and peace building.
In 2012, UNITAR asked the Mediation Clinic to participate in the Women Negotiating Peace conference at the United Nations. Carter’s workshop--a first-of-its-kind training for female delegates—was organized in response to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, which promotes the participation of women in peace building efforts worldwide, noting they are “underrepresented in virtually all” governments.
“We were proud to be part of that first summit,” Carter recalled, “and right from the beginning, we could see the impact on the diplomats and also the incredible opportunities for our students. The U.N. asked us to return because of the tremendous feedback.”
Since then, the workshop has become an annual event, and participants have even come to the Law School for further training, attending the initial “boot camp” weeks of each semester’s Mediation Clinic. Starting in the fall, Carter and Watts will teach an Advanced Mediation Clinic, “in large part because of the U.N. partnership and all the substantive work we know it will generate for our students,” Carter said.
At this week’s signing of the Law School’s agreement with UNITAR, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Nikhil Seth stressed the importance of gender equality.  “He came up with an idea to hold training programs for women before the General Assembly and all other major U.N. meetings,” Carter said, “so that female diplomats feel equipped and empowered to enter the U.N.’s biggest arenas and advocate for themselves and their missions.”
In a statement released after this week’s meeting at Columbia Law School, UNITAR called the collaboration “crucial to equip members of this community with the capacity to navigate and contribute to the United Nations.”
Partnership with UNITAR
UNITAR was established in 1965 "for the purpose of enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations.'' It provides short-term executive training to officials of member states as well as to representatives of civil society and the private sector. It works with an estimated 25,000 people around the world each year, through seminars and workshops, e-learning, and special events.
When Carter met earlier this year with the head of UNITAR’s New York office, Ambassador Marco Suazo, they came up with the same question: “Why are we talking about isolated programs when we could be talking about something so much greater?” remembered Carter. “We should be exploring everything that Columbia Law School and Columbia University bring to bear, in terms of teaching, intellectual leadership, and the ability to design a curriculum that will marry conflict resolution—which is a skill that cuts across all disciplines—with the U.N.’s 2030 agenda and its sustainable development goals. These goals include gender equality, eradicating poverty, access to justice, making sustainable cities, creating just institutions and protecting our environment.”
The agenda’s social justice goals align with the mission of the Columbia Law School clinics, which handle cases in such subject areas as international human rights, environmental law, community enterprise, and immigrants’ rights.
“Our clinics were founded to increase access to justice and to solve legal and social problems, to be a voice for those who need one, and to empower individuals, whether they live in New York City or Papua New Guinea, to access their rights and solve their own problems,” Carter said. “This partnership is a tremendous fit for our program.”
The New York diplomatic corps represents a wide variety of nations, from the world’s most- to least-developed states. Workshop participants will receive signed certificates of attendance from Columbia Law School and Columbia University, Carter notes, and the U.N. has expressed a desire to work toward a more formal credential, such as a certificate in conflict resolution and diplomacy.
“Our goal, over the next year and beyond, is to design and execute trainings that will reach hundreds of diplomats, and to combine our expertise in conflict resolution with substantive legal knowledge that will benefit all nations and all peoples,” Carter said.

October 15, 2016 in Clinic News, Clinic Profile, Clinic Students and Graduates, Clinic Victories | Permalink | Comments (0)