Clinical Law Prof Blog

Editor: Jeffrey R. Baker
Pepperdine University
School of Law

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Open Letter to a Clinic Student at Mid-term

Dear Student,

We are halfway through the semester, and I still don’t know why you signed up for clinic. Sure, I know what you told me and what you put on the form, but I never really know. Perhaps you heard that clinic is a good way to jumpstart your GPA, in which case you have been misinformed. Perhaps you longed for the opportunity to use your legal skills to help someone. Perhaps one or two years of law school left you tottering on the brink of existential despair, and you needed something to remind you of why you wanted to be a lawyer.

Whatever your reasons, the reality of clinic is probably not what you imagined. And that’s how it always is. It's not what I imagined either. Clinic changes depending on the case, the client, the judge . . . who knows? Some hapless butterfly beating its wings in Waikiki?

But one thing that does not change is that clinic requires a lot of work. We ask you to learn and practice a whole new set of skills and often, after you have worked hard on something, we tell you that you didn’t do it right. And all of this happens against the backdrop of the rest of your life—classes, law review, trial team, a bad cold, a new romance, an old romance gone south, a roommate who might in fact be Satan, aging parents, a difficult commute.

So, what do I want from you at this point? I want you to succeed—to become a better writer, to think more clearly, to do right by your clients. And ultimately, I want you to soar—to find a great job, to lead a happy life, to make the world a better place.

I want you to prove wrong the mean fifth-grade teacher who pronounced you feckless, or to prove right your priest, your boss from your first summer job, or your mom, who believed you could do anything you set your mind to. I want you to grow as a person and as a lawyer. But as Bruce Stachenfeld observed, “the trainer can’t want it more than the fighter.”[1] So with just eight weeks left, make it count. Be kind, be creative, be brave, and, please, do the job you signed up for.



Your Clinical Law Prof

[1] Bruce Stachenfeld, Reinventing the Law Business: How to Train Super Associates (Part II),

October 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pepperdine's Dean Tacha Rises in Favor of California's TFARR Proposals

Paul Caron at the TaxProf Blog has posted a letter from our dean, Deanell Tacha, to the AALS Deans Forum Steering Committee, to express her support of the TFARR proposals and processes in California.

An excerpt:

The TFARR process in California has resulted in significant ways in bringing the profession and law schools together.  Whether any of the recommendations is adopted remains to be seen, but I can say with some confidence that the process itself has strengthened relationships within the profession.  Mutual respect and understanding characterized the process.  Most important, the TFARR work, in my judgment,  served the people of California by highlighting so many of the challenges that lie ahead in delivering high quality, affordable legal services in this state and in providing the rigorous grounding for new lawyers that will equip them for the intellectual and practical issues they will confront in a changing legal landscape.  TFARR has helped focus the profession on the need to work together to serve the noble ends of justice to which we are all committed.

October 8, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOBS: Indiana Tech: Clinical Tenure Track Position

Via Prof. Adam Lamparello


INDIANA TECH LAW SCHOOL invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track clinical assistant professor to design, manage, and teach a live-client clinic in the Law School’s innovative and growing clinical program, which currently consists of the United States Supreme Court Amicus Project, the Federal Judicial Intern Practicum, the Mediation Clinic, and the Appellate Litigation Clinic. In the fall 2016 semester, the Law School will implement a live-client clinic in an area consistent with the successful candidate’s expertise and the community’s needs.

The Law School’s clinics are part of an innovative, assessment-driven, and outcome-based program of experiential legal education, and clinical instructors are expected to collaborate with doctrinal, legal writing, and professional skills faculty to facilitate student learning experiences on matters of local, regional, and national significance.

Successful applicants will have an excellent academic record, substantial clinical teaching and law practice experience, and a demonstrated commitment to excellence in clinical teaching, scholarship, and service. Based on the candidate’s qualifications and experience, this positon may also include or evolve toward responsibility for directing and administering the Law School’s clinical program or teaching some doctrinal or legal writing courses.

The position is full-time (nine months), tenure track, with full voting rights and committee participation. Salary is based on experience, and the successful candidate will receive a generous benefits package that includes health insurance and retirement savings. Additionally, the successful candidate will receive a professional development budget to enable participation at conferences and to promote meaningful scholarship. This is a unique opportunity to be on the ground floor of an innovative law school, develop a rigorous and cutting-edge program of legal education, and produce competent practitioners. Candidates should send a CV/resume, cover letter, and the candidate’s clinical vision to Associate Dean for Faculty Charles E. MacLean ( The Law School is particularly focused on candidates who will contribute to the diversity of the Law School’s faculty.

Indiana Tech Law School is not currently approved by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Associate and makes no representation that it will receive approval from the Council. The Law School has applied for and currently is in the process of seeking provisional approval.


October 8, 2015 in Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Clinicians Can and Should Write, Here’s How

I love to write.  Inevitably though around this time each academic year, I wonder when to find the time to write: during work or personal time.  Having taught in positions both at law schools that require and support clinical scholarship and those that don’t, I am convinced that it is important for clinicians to write what they see and practice.  It’s our duty.  So we must find both the time and resources to do it.

The discipline of writing appeals on a deep level: as clinicians, we are uniquely poised to attest how laws apply in life, with sometimes disparate effect.  For us litigators, we get to observe how courts operate, not just the ideals to which they aspire, but the ugly moments when judges and lawyers forsake fundamental rights, due process, and dignity for the sake of efficiency.  How rich those opportunities are to reflect, analyze, and inform the public about what is really going on.  “All scholarship is witness”, a former Pepperdine President once said, and indeed, my best writing comes from my personal experience as lawyer, teacher, woman of color, and especially when I witness injustice happen to the most marginalized clients, and my clinic students and I get caught in the cross-fire.  In those opportunities, my writing comes alive. 

A former law school colleague, Christine L. Jones, once advised me to “write about what really bothers you.”  And when I have the effect has been undeniable through feedback and citations from those in agreement and not, and a commenting audience ranging from lawyers, professors, social workers, artists, law students, legislatures, and trade organizations—not to mention my mother and mother-in-law.  Our clinical scholarship impacts.

Many question, generally, the value of legal scholarship, and the “disconnect between the academy and the profession.”  But maybe that so-called disconnect is the very space where clinicians thrive, and as lawyer-professors, we can bridge the gap.  As Sherilynn Ifill (Maryland law) once blogged, “Our scholarship – if read – can be very helpful to judges and their clerks as they navigate the shoals of complex legal decisionmaking.” Ifill says, “Take, for example, the work of [her clinical] colleague Renée Hutchins, who in her 2007 article Tied Up in Knotts:  GPS Technology and the Fourth Amendment, . . . writes about whether and how the use of GPS devices by law enforcement should be assessed under the Fourth Amendment.  Her article was so illuminating in exploring this underdeveloped area of law that Judge David Tatel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals cited it in . . . U.S. v. Maynard, in which the court unanimously held that the police use of GPS tracking on a criminal suspect over several weeks constitutes a ‘search’ and requires a warrant.”

Others question whether writing interferes with teaching, but according to a recent article based on data from one law school, the answer is no.  To the contrary, scholars make better teachers. Looking at a number of factors, two researchers “analyzed 10-years of publicly available data on an ‘unbalanced panel’ of 50 Chicago Law faculty members” and found “no strong negative relationship between volume of publication and quality or amount of teaching.” Instead, “the data [albeit limited] mostly showed a positive relationship between scholarship quantity and teaching quality.”  That makes sense.  Writing often and well models the critical importance of this fundamental skill we seek to instill, starting with our 1Ls.  Even SCOTUS Justice Kagan believes “writing is one of the hardest things to teach.”  Our endeavors might inspire students to write more and better.

The good news for those clinicians thinking about writing and wondering how to find both the time and resources is that our clinical community is here to help.  Michele Gilman heads the Scholarship Committee of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education, which “offers every clinician an opportunity for supportive, non-evaluative feedback on a scholarly work-in-progress from a clinical colleague with shared substantive expertise.”  Many writers and reviewers have already been matched, and “if you have a work-in-progress and would like to be paired with a clinical colleague at another school, send a request to”  The committee also welcomes clinicians willing to mentor others to join their database.  I can personally attest that the Clinical Peer Network works: in 2009, Michele connected me with another clinical pillar, Mae Quinn, who helped me publish my first article.

Besides traditional law reviews and journals, more venues exist today to publish our clinical scholarship from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) newsletter to the Clinical Law Prof Blog to the Clinical Law Review, which hosts its own annual NYC workshop and offers scholarships to participate.  Every year, those who do come away bursting with praise, and last weekend’s workshop was no exception.  Warren Binford had this to say about it:

I have twice participated in this workshop as a writer and gained so much from the experience. I always learned a tremendous amount from my colleagues' feedback on my papers. This year I participated as a co-facilitator, and it, too, was a very humbling and re-invigorating experience. We have such a supportive community and I appreciate the efforts of CLR and NYU to harness that positivity and support and focus it on nurturing one another as writers and scholars. It is so easy to get caught up in the needs of our students and clients, as well as all of the ups and downs of life. And yet, we all know that scholarship is the coin of the realm in academia and we must develop habits and systems to help us create the scholarship we need to stand securely shoulder to shoulder with our non-clinical colleagues (on top of everything else we have to do!). Thank you to the writers, facilitators, and organizers, and, of course, NYU for keeping us focused and helping us to grow through this workshop. Not only did I learn so much from the papers I read and the people I met, I was yet again inspired by our colleagues' courage, discipline, and, of course, scholarship.

So, back to my first question: when to find the time to write? Here’s some advice I got from Kate Kruse and Mae Quinn at the New Clinicians Conference in Cleveland in 2009: Kate suggested writing for twenty minutes each day.  It keeps the ideas percolating and even if that approach produces only one footnoted sentence a day, at the end of the week, you have a paragraph.  Mae, on the other hand, testified how helpful and fun she found destination scholarship retreats: extended time during school breaks when she focused on writing.  Having tried both methods, they work.  Find your own, and “Just WRITE.”

October 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, October 5, 2015

That inevitable student email...

Dear Professor, I wanted to let you know...

I will not be able to make our supervision meeting/class/client call next week as:

1) my sister is getting married and I am throwing her a bridal shower.

2) the high school mock trial team I coach has qualified for semi-finals in Des Moines and I will be accompanying them.

3) I have found an affordable flight and I am going home for the weekend for my Grandmother's birthday.

I plan on staying on top of the reading and doing work in the evenings so I do not fall behind. I also told my clinic partner. I will be available by email as well.


Student X

Every year I receive some variation of this email and I always struggle with my response.

Should this be a teachable moment where we discuss  client centered lawyering? Are there risks in being too firm, creating a tense working relationship for the rest of the semester? Alternatively, I am tasked with preparing you for practice - how can I pretend this is acceptable behavior for a lawyer? Do I express exasperation at your failure to read and abide by the rules set forth in the clinic manual (which clearly state you must ask permission for absences). Should I be more or less firm to counterbalance gender and race biases?

In my search for the right response, I have made many blunders! What are your tried and true tactics for dealing with these types of student emails? 

October 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOBS: Two TT Positions at UDC: LITC and Legislation

Via Prof. Kristina Campbell, two announcements for tenure-track positions in UDC's Low Income Taxpayer Clinic and Legislation Clinic:



                 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DAVID A. CLARKE SCHOOL OF LAW (UDC-DCSL) invites applications for a tenure track law professor to direct the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) beginning July 16, 2016 and continuing through the academic year 2016-2017.  We will consider exceptionally talented applicants at the assistant professor level. Candidates must demonstrate a record of strong academic performance and excellent potential for scholarly achievement. Relevant experience and a demonstrated potential for outstanding clinical teaching is expected.  The salary for the position is $94,600 plus benefits. 

The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic provides students with hands-on experience representing taxpayers who have active tax controversies pending with the IRS and in U.S. Tax Court. Students represent low-income residents referred to the clinic by the IRS and various local non-profit and advocacy organizations. Tax controversy cases include Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) examinations, tax return audits resulting in tax deficiencies, and the denial of various credits, including the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit. The LITC also conducts a variety of tax outreach events in the community to advise District residents of their rights and responsibilities as taxpayers.

UDC-DCSL is one of only six American Bar Association accredited law schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and is the nation’s only urban, public land grant university.   UDC-DCSL has a three-part statutory mission:

  • to recruit and enroll students from groups underrepresented at the bar,
  • to provide a well-rounded theoretical and practical legal education that will enable students to be effective and ethical advocates, and
  • to represent the legal needs of low-income residents through the School's legal clinics.

The School of Law has been a leader in experiential and clinical education for more than 40 years beginning with its predecessor Antioch School of Law.  Every student completes two 350 hour clinical courses, as well as forty hours of community service.  UDC-DCSL offers nine legal clinics in the following areas: juvenile and special education; housing and consumer; general practice; community development; legislation; low-income taxpayer; government accountability; immigration and human rights and criminal defense. 

UDC-DCSL is recognized for its commitment to diversity and to clinical education.  The Law School ranked 7th in the nation in Law School Clinical Programs (US News and World Report, 2015); 2nd most diverse law school in the U.S. (US News and World Report, 2015); 1st most chosen by older students (Princeton Review, 2014); 2nd most diverse faculty (Princeton Review, 2014); 8th best environment for minority students (Princeton Review, 2014); 8th most liberal students (Princeton Review, 2014); and Top 20 most innovative law school (PreLaw Magazine, 2012).

Although we will accept applications until the position is filled, we strongly encourage interested applicants to submit applications immediately. Interested candidates should send a cover letter and resume. UDC-DCSL has a strong commitment to diversity among its faculty and encourages applications from minorities and women.

Contact:  Professor Andrew G. Ferguson, Co-Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008.  (email: to Faculty Secretary, Ms. Camille V’Estres –



                 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DAVID A. CLARKE SCHOOL OF LAW (UDC-DCSL) invites applications for a tenure-track law professor to direct the School of Law’s Legislation Clinic beginning July 16, 2016.  The professor has the opportunity to design an innovative legislative clinic in Washington, D.C. that will teach students the skills necessary for effective legislative advocacy and provide them with opportunities to work on projects that produce law reform through the legislative process.  The rank of the position will depend upon the successful applicant’s level of experience.  Candidates must hold a J.D. degree with a record of strong academic performance and excellent potential for scholarly achievement.  Relevant experience and demonstrated potential for outstanding clinical teaching is expected.     

UDC-DCSL is one of only six American Bar Association accredited law schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and is the nation’s only urban, public land grant university.   UDC-DCSL has a three-part statutory mission:

  • to recruit and enroll students from groups underrepresented at the bar,
  • to provide a well-rounded theoretical and practical legal education that will enable students to be effective and ethical advocates, and
  • to represent the legal needs of low-income residents through the School’s legal clinics.

The School of Law has been a leader in experiential and clinical education for more than 40 years beginning with its predecessor Antioch School of Law.  Every student completes two 350 hour clinical courses, as well as forty hours of community service.  UDC-DCSL offers nine legal clinics in the following areas: juvenile and special education; housing and consumer; general practice; community development; legislation; low-income taxpayer; government accountability; immigration and human rights and criminal defense. 

UDC-DCSL is recognized for its commitment to diversity and to clinical education.  The Law School ranked 7th in the nation in Law School Clinical Programs (US News and World Report, 2015); 2nd most diverse law school in the U.S. (US News and World Report, 2015); 1st most chosen by older students (Princeton Review, 2014); 2nd most diverse faculty (Princeton Review, 2014); 8th best environment for minority students (Princeton Review, 2014); 8th most liberal students (Princeton Review, 2014); and Top 20 most innovative law school (PreLaw Magazine, 2012).

Although we will accept applications until the position is filled, we strongly encourage interested applicants to submit applications immediately. Interested candidates should send a cover letter and resume. UDC-DCSL has a strong commitment to diversity among its faculty and encourages applications from minorities and women.          

Contact:  Professor Andrew G. Ferguson, Co-Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008.  (email: to Faculty Secretary, Ms. Camille V’Estres –


October 5, 2015 in Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Talking About Practice. . .

There is a famous video of the NBA and NCAA basketball legend, Allen Iverson, defending himself against the media for being criticized by his coach, Larry Brown for missing practice. The video is so popular now it has received over 8 million You Tube views.  Iverson, a dynamic player, of great talent, and success, has almost become defined by that one moment. He has become an example of a great player disrespecting the importance of practice.

Practice is, of course, how one gets better at their trade or vocation. Dancers, musicians, and for our purposes, lawyers gain skills and confidence when they engage in practice.  They can even master other aspects of their trade that they haven't done faster if they just master the basic skills.  Lawyers ease into other areas quickly because they learned the basics, the fundamentals. 

Twice this semester I have received calls from employers who wanted to hire two of my students. These students had just graduated and had no post-law school lawyer experience; yet, these employers were so impressed they called me right away to ask about their work and how they got along in the workplace. 

First, it did not surprise me. The two students were very good students who had worked in the clinic for two full semesters.  They had participated in every aspect of clinic too. They had represented clients in court hearings. They had interviewed the clients, maintained client relations, done research, plotted strategy, drafted court filings, and had, at all times, maintained a high level of professionalism and ethical conduct. They had done everything a lawyer could do under the rules and more including new challenges such as transactional work, something that just drifted into our clinic by chance. 
So, it was without any reservation that they both received top recommendations from me and a long detailed response about the specific nature of their work. They had been lawyers for the semesters they worked for me even though they were only so under the Michigan rules which allows students to do everything a lawyer does just as long as a supervising attorney admitted to the Michigan bar supervises their work. 
I know for sure one of them accepted the position but the experience got me to again think about the current focus by law schools on “practical skills” and making our students “practice ready.”  Some have suggested that this term is now overused or overplayed and that we should be careful. Self analysis and critique is good; however,  these particular comments oftentimes come from those who dismiss clinics as costly and unnecessary despite the march of the industry towards producing "practice ready" graduates like my two students above. We know clinics are useful and we know their value. Professor Robert R. Kuehn's article "Pricing Clinical Legal Education" notes that there is no increased costs associated with experiential education and law school clinic courses even if law schools sought to provide each student with such an experience. 
Two years ago another student of mine graduated with an eye on becoming part of the JAG Corps. The student was offered a position based on the fact that he had appeared in court with clients and had conducted hearings on the record. He had the actual skills that the JAG Corps was seeking in an applicant even though he had no post-JD experience at the time. His only experience was working for a year in our legal clinic. This is “practice ready” experience and students should be encouraged to pursue it and then tell their employers explicitly what they have done. We should likewise not diminish what we are doing.
Our students are not Allen Iverson at the podium defending himself. They want to practice and learn the trade. They want to learn lawyer skills and they do. They want to one day get in the game and do well. If we remain committed to our work, they will.  

October 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Equal Access to Justice Conference, Nov. 12-13, UC-Hastings

Via Prof. Gail Silverstein of UC-Hastings:


University of California Hastings College of the Law, with funding from the Lawrence M. Nagin ’65 Faculty Enrichment Fund, and the Stanford Law School Center on the Legal Profession, in conjunction with the Hastings Law Journal, invite you to attend a Conference on:

Advancing Equal Access to Justice:

Barriers, Dilemmas, and Prospects


November 12 – 13, 2015

University of California, Hastings College of the Law – San Francisco, CA


Addressing inequalities, dysfunctions, and reforms to accessing legal services within the U.S. civil justice system, with an emphasis on California


Keynote Address by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, California Supreme Court

Opening Remarks by Distinguished Professor Emeritus Joseph Grodin, University of California Hastings College of the Law, and former Associate Justice, California Supreme Court

 MCLE Credit Available


September 30, 2015 in Conferences and Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Best Job in the World

Every year summer comes to a close, and every year I feel as though I didn’t take advantage of the time. I didn’t write enough. I didn’t see enough friends.  I didn’t visit enough new places. So, the beginning of each new school year is tinged with lament.

Luckily, I have the best job in the world.

I get to show up every fall to a new crop of motivated, energetic, and brilliant law students. And, being a clinical educator doubles the pleasure. Second year law students are taking a course of their own choosing for the first time in their law school journeys. They are eager to get to experience learning they feel is relevant to their interests. So, being a clinical teacher means your students are not only finally nurturing their passions, but they are doing it in a different way than law school generally allows. They are in the trenches, getting their hands dirty, working with actual clients to make a difference.

Third year law students may have already enjoyed the privilege of participating in a clinic or they may also be experiencing hands on legal practice in school for the first time. But, whatever the case, third year students are in the midst of their last opportunity to take classes. That means they are often giving something new a try or making a mad race to get the experience they’ve been meaning to have, but have been putting off. Whatever the case, whatever they do, they do it with abandon because for most of them there is little consequence to taking risks at this late point in their law school career. And, being able to take more risks also makes them a little more relaxed. It’s kind of a perfect combination.

So, these students show up fresh and excited to see me. The rush I get from their enthusiasm is incredible. Suddenly, I am no longer thinking about what I should have done and didn’t do over the summer. Instead, I’m consumed by what we are doing together. I’m thinking about what else we can do as the semester progresses.

Mostly, though, I’m learning about these students. I’m learning who they were, who they are, and who they want to be. I’m coming to a better understanding of what they want out of their clinical experience and how I can help empower them to go get it.

The learning doesn’t stop there. Every semester a few students think of a solution I’ve never heard before  to a problem I’ve encountered several times. Or, a person tweaks an old approach to a subject that changes the way I think. Or, someone asked a question that is critical to how I understand my subject matter, but that I’ve never considered before. It’s truly joyous to be shown how much more I have to learn. It is a blessing to receive a new influx of students to remind me how lucky I am to do what I do.

That’s just one of themany perks of the best job in the world.

September 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rebellious Lawyering at 25

“Radical lawyering,” I then wrote to myself in field notes, “somehow has to be anchored in the world we’re trying to help change. Built from the ground up. Made a part of what my relatives, friends, and allies do in rebelling against all that has oppressed us and our ancestors, all that seems now still likely to subordinate our descendants. Informed by how we cope and fight and by how we laugh at ourselves. Mindful of how we sometimes get hemmed in and corrupted and deluded by big institutions and tiny habits. Aware of how we sometimes convert apparently insignificant opportunities into important advantages, defiantly making strengths of our weaknesses.”

Gerald López, Introduction, Rebellious Lawyering: One Chicano’s Vision of Progressive Legal Practice (1992).

When I was in law school in the mid-90s, I went to a conference at Yale titled "Rebellious Lawyering." To this day, it was one of the best conferences I have ever attended. It was inspiring, invigorating, and creative, and convinced me that I had found my tribe. The impetus for and foundation of that conference was Gerald López’s influential book Rebellious Lawyering: One Chicano’s Vision of Progressive Legal Practice (1992). 

For years afterwards, I kept the conference poster displayed above my kitchen sink. "Not another cog in the wheel," it proclaimed. The poster remained up even during my eight years as a corporate lawyer when I found a supportive firm (Pillsbury) that allowed me to be a "Rebellious Lawyer," at least in my pro bono work on behalf of children and non profits.

Thus, when I heard about the possibility of a "Rebellious Lawyering" symposium, my ears immediately perked. My tribe was reuniting!

In the ensuing months, the symposium has now come together and will take place on Sunday, May 1, 2016, during the annual AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education in Baltimore, Maryland. The half-day symposium will include an opening keynote address by Gerald López “reflecting on the major themes of his book and a plenary session immediately following the keynote with clinicians who are interpreting and extending these themes and who will be reflecting on the lessons of Rebellious Lawyering for clinical legal education.” 

Related to the symposium, the Clinical Law Review will be issuing a special Spring 2017 symposium volume, Rebellious Lawyering at Twenty-Five. The issue will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the publication of the book.  

According to the RFP circulated by the Clinical Law Review:

Rarely has a critical text had such a deep and abiding impact on lawyering practice and theory as Gerald López’s Rebellious Lawyering. Lopez’s text (and a group of related works of legal scholarship written during an especially fertile period of critical thinking and writing on poverty law) has inspired generations of lawyers and shaped public interest legal practice since its publication almost 25 years ago. The imperative for lawyers to ally with those mobilizing in poor, immigrant, and communities of color against overpolicing and inequality is as strong today as it has ever been.  

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Rebellious Lawyering, the Clinical Law Review invites the submission of abstracts describing potential full-length articles and essays, as well as shorter comments and dispatches, for inclusion in a symposium issue reflecting on the meaning of the text two-and-a-half decades after its publication.

Authors are encouraged to reflect broadly and critically on rebellious lawyering in general, and the book in particular, to offer case studies, critiques, theoretical amendments, pedagogical insights, and other kinds of engagement with these ideas.  What insights does rebellious lawyering offer us today? How have concepts of rebellious lawyering shaped our practices as lawyers and clinical educators? How do we describe an instance or series of instances of lawyering rebelliously? How have we failed to lawyer rebelliously in a given moment? How does lawyering and legal education today nurture and/or suppress rebellious practice? How can the ideas contained in the text be deepened, updated, reconstituted, extended? In style and substance, we hope for creativity and rebelliousness in the submissions.

Abstracts are due by October 30, 2015. The journal will expect to notify authors of symposium acceptances in November. If you wish to participate in the Clinical Law Review symposium, please email abstracts describing your proposed symposium contribution by October 30, 2015 to  While there is no prescribed length for an abstract, we anticipate that many abstracts will be in the range of 1 - 3 pages. 

If you have any questions about the symposium, please direct them to Sameer Ashar, Chair of the Clinical Law Review’s symposium committee, or to any other symposium committee members:

Amna Akbar,

Sameer Ashar,

Phyllis Goldfarb,

Brenda Smith,

September 29, 2015 in Books, Community Organizing, Conferences and Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dealing with Secondary Trauma

An e-mail thread on the Immprof listserv last week about trigger warnings triggered reflections on how we prepare students to deal with situations involving clients who have been traumatized.  Several people asked about what we do at the University of St. Thomas in our classes on dealing with secondary trauma, so here’s a quick summary. 

So many law school clinics work with clients and populations that have been through recent and historical traumas.  Students who have been traumatized themselves may unexpectedly find themselves reliving past traumas, may themselves be so resilient that such work does not pose particular challenges, or may respond to clients in unexpected ways as a result of trauma.  (In one of the e-mails, I shared the story of a clinic student who had a brother who had been tortured.  The student came to realize that they had subconsciously resented their asylum client for not having “suffered enough” in comparison to their brother. We were then able to work together to address those feelings that were getting in the way of representation).

And then the work itself may result in vicarious trauma.  (A slightly humorous Resilience Man describes vicarious trauma here.  Other similar resources that, some equally as cheesy and others traditionally somber, can be found at the Headington Institute).  Not sure we need to be giving students “trauma warnings,” but I do think we as a profession could do a better job at preparing our newer colleagues to face these challenges. 

So, what do we do?   We program in a few different offerings.

Resiliency: For those clinics that participate in our intensive two day orientation program, we budget 30 minutes for a quick introduction to resiliency.  Currently, Crixell Shell and I facilitate this exercise.  Crixell is our clinic office manager, and also an associate trainer with the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute which provides trainings on trauma and resiliency in Minnesota. STAR stands for Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience and is based out of Eastern Mennonite University. The program grew out of responses by faith communities in New York City to the 9/11 attacks. 

In brief, we use the imagery of seeing ourselves as trees in times of storm.  Our roots are our support systems, such as faith, social connections, family, friends and other supports. The trunk represents our personal characteristics and strengths. The branches are skills we can develop as individuals and the leaves are specific actions that are taken.  Weeds represent challenge, perhaps of our own making, that get in the way.  We ask students to spend a few minutes filling in their own resiliency trees.  This past August, when I led the exercise, I drew the tree on one of our white board walls and during the discussion time added student responses to the board.  At the end of the session, we hand out a list of resiliency tips.  Nothing terribly profound, but it gets people thinking.  (If readers would like our three page facilitator’s guide, email me at ).

Dealing with Secondary TraumaWe have this class mid semester, and bring together three clinics (immigration, elder, and community justice).  We assign “The Caregiver’s Guide to Secondary Traumatic Stress,” produced in 2004 by the Center for Survivors of Torture in Dallas.  While that reading includes a self-test, we stopped using it because of psychology colleagues recommended another that is normed.  (the rest of the reading is still assigned).  We now use the Professional Quality of Life Scale (PROQOL), which is free and easy to use. It measures Compassion Satisfaction & Compassion Fatigue.  We ask students to take and score the test and turn in the results anonymously.  We track responses from semester to semester.  Our class consists of talking about the results (Jennifer Wright usually takes the lead), and then sharing stories about how we as professionals have faced and dealt with secondary trauma (usually Nekima Levy Pounds or me).  We break into small groups to have students share how they cope with stress and then come back together to wrap up by sharing with the whole group.   

Faith as a Foundation for Social Justice.  As a faith based institution, several of our clinics will dedicate a class to exploring issues of faith and social justice.  Martin Luther King’s A Letter from The Birmingham Jail often is assigned reading, but as each clinic that has this class does it separately, the readings are not uniform.  I have recently taken to assigning chapter 1 from Ched Myers and Matthew Colwell’s Our God is Undocumented, as Myers’ historical theology of the Tower of Babel as a symbol of mono-linguistic imperialism compliments an earlier reading assignment of my article, The Immigration Hotel.  Last spring I even invited a client to come and speak about her journey to safety and the role her faith plays in sustaining joy and hope in the face of terror.  Vicarious Resiliency, as well as vicarious trauma, is something we can pick up in this work, too. 

Health and Wellness:  We reserve one class for those clinics that wish to participate in what amounts to a health and wellness fair.  We usually have four to six options.  Students pick three to attend.  The biggest hits are always the chair masseuses from the Sister Rosalind Gefre Massage and Wellness Center. We’ve had sessions on aroma therapy, bike commuting, centering prayer, yoga, mindfulness, and health and wellness jeopardy. Pets and mental health (yes, we bring in dogs and puppies) has also been a popular offering.  We’re trying to send the message that self-care is an important habit to develop.

In terms of other resources, Jeff Baker blogged about Motivating Self-Care, a session presented by Brittany Stringfellow Otey,  Margaret Drew, Lynette Parker and me at the 2014 AALS Clinic Conference.   Those colleagues are great resources as well.

September 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

You Are Part of the Light

In our work with clients and students, there are many moments that make an indelible impression on us, as attorneys and counselors, as teachers, as human beings. Usually, when these moments occur, I am overwhelmed with both the honor it is to do the work we do, and the gravity of that work, on behalf of our clients and our students.

For those of us working in a clinic that provides direct representation to clients, we are working with people who are facing challenges that to them, seem insurmountable, and often involve traumatic events, victimization, and marginalization. The liberty and happiness many of us take for granted are habitually at risk for such clients, and the impact of our work can be monumental to them, their families, and ultimately as a result, their communities.

Some of the work the Puller Clinic does is with victims of military sexual trauma (MST), for both veterans and active duty service members. The former are typically seeking disability compensation and health benefits, the latter are often facing an unwanted and typically unwarranted separation based on symptomology resulting from the MST. There are more of these cases than one would expect, and it is heartbreaking to not only learn the details of the underlying assault and the herculean efforts at overcoming that trauma, but also the re-victimization during continued service or the compensation and separation processes. Not surprisingly, the MST can cause paranoia, fear, guilt, hopelessness and deep-seated distrust as a result of an attack by a brother- or sister-in-arms. In discussing an MST with a client who previously served as a paratrooper and asking the requisite question of whether she reported it to anyone else, she responded, “No, they packed my chute.” That was one of those moments that made an indelible impression on me as an attorney – when those who have “got your six,” or are supposed to, are the same ones who engaged in or were complicit during or after the commission of an MST, how does one come back from that deep betrayal without long-term emotional and psychological consequences?

A student and I recently interviewed a victim of continued harassment, bullying and MST that occurred during service. This repeated victimization has left her, by her own admission, paranoid, devoid of any trust, struggling to get through each day, and desperate for some assistance. After she recounted her experiences over the course of several hours she thanked us and said she felt a lot better already. She said she had felt hopeless with nowhere to turn, but that we “are part of the light.” It is a humbling and sobering experience to play that role in someone’s life, but it also left me feeling so grateful that in addition to training the next generation of lawyers, clinicians still get to be “part of the light” for clients every day. We have the best job ever – we get to teach, but we also get to continue to serve.

Finally, at this point in the semester, it may feel overwhelming with classes, cases, and the myriad of other responsibilities we each have at our institutions and beyond, but I leave you with this reminder from the movie, Zero Dark Thirty, about the efforts of the CIA to capture Osama bin Laden. As the CIA analyst played by Jessica Chastain notes, “I want to make something absolutely clear. If you thought there was some secret cell somewhere working al-Qaeda, I want you to know that you are wrong! This is it. There's no working group coming to the rescue. There's nobody else hidden away on some other floor.” The work we do with our students is important, as is the lesson they should leave with; we do what we do because for the clients we represent, and the thousands of others we wish we could, “there is no one else.” So take care of yourselves as best you can, because your students and your clients need you.

September 27, 2015 in Clinic Students and Graduates, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Don’t Believe Me? Just Watch!

Maybe I am not that old.  Yet sometimes I feel that way with my students.  Perhaps last week did not help.  In my clinic, we were talking about what students wear to interview clients when they dress down during the day for school and then have to see clients in the office.  I told them about my first legal aid office in Cleveland in the mid 80’s.  We all thought we had to dress down for our clients but knew we had to dress up for court.  To solve this problem for women, we had the denim wrap-around skirt in the closet—any woman who found herself running to any court could use it and all of a sudden seem somewhat professional.  My students laughed at it.  Really?  They wore those?  That was dress up?  As the discussion moved to other topics, they kept saying, “Is that how they did it in the land of the wrap around skirt?” 


The problem got worse a few days later.  I moved from my clinical class to my poverty law class and was teaching about Lyng v. Auto Workers, a 1988 Supreme Court Case denying increases in foodstamps to strikers.  All of a sudden, I realized I was relating absent-mindedly my memories of what that meant to people in the community I was serving in 1988 when I worked in legal aid office in Joliet Illinois to the workers who feared striking after the case.  That’s more than 25 years ago—many of my students weren’t born!  How old am I?


What are my students thinking of me?  Can we relate to each other if these things are so much a part of me and so ancient and foreign to them?  When I started as a clinical teacher, I felt young.  My students seemed to think so, too.  They could relate to me as a teacher but also a colleague.  I was Spencer, not Professor Rand.  We had some of the same formative experiences.  Now, their parents are my age and my students look at me differently.  And it makes me teach differently.  Now, I have to learn more what they like and try to relate to it.  I don’t send them to find information in books but teach myself how to get information electronically and try to keep up with them and learn like them.  And hopefully I can connect with them.  It is harder.  It is worth it.  Don't believe me?  Just watch!  Or something like that.  I hope they and I can keep learning.


In a few weeks, my poverty law class is getting to a section on work—labor unions, wage and hour claims, discrimination claims, and more.  I have a lot to tell them about it.  In fact, my family was involved in Schechter V. US, the 1935 case we always called the “Schechter Sick Chicken Case,” that I now know others called it, too.  My grandfather was treasurer of the New York poulterer’s union and testified or was deposed in the case and told me all about it.  Won’t it help hear my students to hear about that?  Actually, it is probably good I have a guest speaker that day.    

September 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Reminders! AALS Clinical Conference RFP, CLEA Board Nominations, Externships 8 RFP

Monday, September 21, 2015

Patient-Physician Relationships as Exemplars for Legal Practice

What can a surgeon teach attorneys about how to lawyer?  In his recent best seller Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande reflected on different models of physician-patient relationships as he struggled to counsel his own father.  In anticipation of Gawande’s appearance in the Twin Cities last week, I had listened to the audiobook version on my daily bike commute. 

[The sold-out event focused on living as well as we can until the end. More than a book reading, the event was a party of sorts, replete with buffet options as well as the Larry McDonough Jazz Band.  In my last blog, I featured a legal advocate/jazz musician and Larry’s appearance allows another jazz law digression.  Larry, beyond his Dave Brubeck-esque talent at the keyboard, has been a legal aid attorney and an adjunct professor teaching poverty law at University of St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota.  His current day gig is as pro bono coordinator at Dorsey and Whitney. ]

Gawande’s story telling style intersperses research and observations with patient and family stories, including the hard conversation he had with his physician doctor who faced progressive paralysis from a rare spinal cord tumor.  Gawande’s dad had two surgeons from which to choose.  His dad rejected the first: “[The surgeon] had the air of the renowned professor he was – authoritative, self-certain, and busy with things to do.” [p. 197].  On the other hand,

The Cleveland Clinic neurosurgeon, Edward Benzel, exuded no less confidence. But he recognized that my father’s questions came from fear.  So he took time to answer them, even the annoying ones.  Along the way, he probed my father, too.  He said that it sounded like he was more worried about what the operation might do to him than what the tumor would. . . . Benzel had a way of looking at people that let them know he was really looking at them.  He turned his seat away from the computer and planted himself directly in front of them. . . .  Eventually he steered the conversation back to the central issue.  The tumor was worrisome. But now he understood something about my father’s concerns.  He believed my father had time to wait and see how quickly his symptoms changed.  He could hold off on surgery until he felt he needed it. [p. 198].

Benzel’s bedside manner brought to Gawande’s mind an article he’d read in medical school in the 1990s by Ezekiel and Linda Emanuel,  the Four Models of the Physician-Patient Relationship. The four types are nicely abridged in a Cliff Notes chart fashion here.   Gawande summarizes them as follows:

  • Paternalistic (“Guardian”): “[W]e are medical authorities aiming to ensure that patients receive what we believe best for them.” [p. 200]
  • Informative (“Technical Expert”): “It’s the opposite of the paternalistic relationship.  We tell you the facts and figures. The rest is up to you.” [p. 200]
  • Interpretive (“Counselor”): “Here the doctor’s role is to help patients determine what they want.” [p. 201].
  • Deliberative (“Friend or teacher”): “Doctors sometimes have to go farther than just interpreting people’s wishes in order to serve their needs adequately. Wants are fickle.  And everyone has what philosophers call ‘second order desires’ – desires about our desires.  We may wish, for instance, to be less impulsive, more healthy, less controlled by primitive desires like fear or hunger, more faithful to larger goals. . . . We often appreciate clinicians who push us when we make short sighted choices. . . . At some point, therefore, it become not only right but also necessary for a doctor to deliberate with people on their larger goals, to even challenge them to re-think ill-considered priorities and beliefs.” [p. 202]

These models of course bring to mind similar constructs in the legal world: Lawyer-centered (i.e. paternalistic), Client-centered (i.e. informative/interpretive), and Collaborative (broadly speaking, deliberative). G. Nicholas Herman and Jean Carey provide succinct summaries of the lawyering models in A Practical Approach to Client Interviewing, Counseling, and Decision-Making (2009) [pp. 5-11].

Gawande clearly sees the deliberative approach is the gold standard for practice.  But I can think of client situations in the past year in which all four of the models were utilized defensibly.  For instance, in a situation in which a young client in the midst of family conflict expressed a desire to be deported into near certain death rather than to continue with an asylum claim, we employed an old fashioned paternalistic model until the crisis passed, going so far as to have a child advocate (in essence, a guardian ad litem) appointed.  In a very different situation, we use the deliberative friend model with a client we’ve served for years (and whose story I’ve blogged about here). She’s even been the teacher by coming to my class.

Are these models more like outfits or different kinds of surgical garb – each perhaps to be “worn” depending on the situation? Which style/model fits you most comfortably?

September 21, 2015 in Immigration, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Seeking Nominations: 2016 William Pincus Award for Outstanding Service and Commitment to Clinical Legal Education

Via Prof. Jayesh Rathod:

Dear Clinical Colleagues:

 The Awards Committee for the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education is now accepting nominations for the 2016 William Pincus Award for Outstanding Service and Commitment to Clinical Legal Education. The Award, which the Section presents at the January AALS annual meeting, honors one or more individuals or institutions of clinical legal education for his/her/their/its (1) service, (2) scholarship, (3) program design and implementation, or (4) other activity beneficial to clinical education or to the advancement of justice.  Nominations are due by Wednesday, October 14 at 5:00PM EST.

 Past recipients include:

1981 David Barnhizer (Cleveland State)

1982 Hon. Neil Smith (D. IA)

1983 William Greenhalgh (Georgetown)

1984 Robert McKay

1985 Dean Hill Rivkin (Tenn.)

1986 Tony Amsterdam (NYU)

1987 Gary Bellow (Harvard)

1988 William Pincus

1989 Gary Palm (Chicago)

1990 Bea Moulton (Hastings)

1991 Sue Bryant (CUNY)

1992 Elliott Milstein (American)

1993 Roy Stuckey (S. Carolina)

1994 Harriet Rabb (Columbia)

1995 Clinical Law Review

1996 Wally Mlyniec (Georgetown)

1997 Edgar Cahn (DC School of Law) and Jean Cahn (Antioch, posthumously)

1998 Steve Wizner (Yale)

1999 Katherine Shelton Broderick (U.D.C. School of Law)

2000 E. Clinton Bamberger (U. of Maryland, Emeritus)

2001 Peter A. Joy (Washington U. at St. Louis)

2002 Louise Trubek (Wisconsin) and Bernida Reagan (East Bay Community

          Law Center/Boalt Hall)

2003 Sandy Ogilvy (Catholic)

2004 Randy Hertz (NYU)

2005 J. Michael Norwood (New Mexico)

2006 David Binder (UCLA)

2007 Anthony V. Alfieri (Miami)

2008 John Elson (Northwestern)

2009 Margaret Martin Barry (Catholic)

2010  Robert Dinerstein (American)

2011  Christine Zuni Cruz (New Mexico)

2012  Robert Kuehn (Washington)

2013 Philip G. Schrag (Georgetown)

2014 Jeanne Charn (Harvard)

2015 Ann Shalleck (American)


Nomination Guidelines

To ensure that the Awards Committee has uniformity in what it is considering in support of each candidate, the Committee requests that nominations adhere to the following guidelines:


  1. To nominate someone, send the name of the nominee and a nominating statement setting forth why the Section should honor the individual, specifically referencing the award criteria outlined above where relevant. The Committee strongly encourages nominators to obtain some supporting letters for the candidate, given that its deliberations are assisted immensely by a variety of voices speaking about a particular nominee. Please note that there is a limit on the amount of supporting material that will be considered. Supporting materials for nominations include:


  • nominating statement of no more than five pages in length (required)
  • a copy of the nominee's resume (required)
  • a list of any scholarship, but not copies of the scholarship (required, but do not duplicate this if it is in the nominee’s resume)
  • no more than five letters or e-mails in support (no letter or e-mail should be more than four single-spaced pages long, exclusive of signatures)
  • no more than five pages of any other materials.


The nomination and documentary support must be submitted via e-mail either in Word or pdf files. Any nominators who want to submit supporting materials that they have in hard copy are responsible for converting them into portable document format or scanning them, cleaning the files, and submitting the materials via pdf files attached to e-mail.


  1. Members of the clinical community who have nominated a person or institution previously are encouraged to re-nominate that person or institution for this year’s award. The selection of one nominee over other nominees should not be viewed as a statement against those not selected. A person or institution not selected one year might be selected the next.


  1. The Committee’s deliberations are assisted immensely by a variety of voices speaking about a particular nominee. Nominators are strongly encouraged to seek letters in support of the nominee from colleagues. Such letters may also include letters of support from students whom the candidate has supervised in a clinical setting.


Please send your nominations by e-mail no later than Wednesday, October 14 at 5:00PM EST to with a copy to  


Thank you!


The Nominating Committee of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education


Margaret Barry, Vermont Law School, Co-Chair

Mary Lynch, Albany Law School, Co-Chair

Sameer Ashar, UC Irvine School of Law

Dionne Gonder-Stanley, North Carolina Central School of Law

Lisa Martin, Columbia School of Law, Catholic University


September 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Let America be America Again" by Langston Hughes

I found this poem again, and it's beautiful.  There is not much that I can add; sometimes the words really do speak for themselves.   Langston Hughes manages to be harrowing yet hopeful, which continues to be our challenge today.  Enjoy. 

Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. (America never was America to me.) Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed— Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above. (It never was America to me.) O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe. (There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? And who are you that draws your veil across the stars? I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek— And finding only the same old stupid plan Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak. I am the young man, full of strength and hope, Tangled in that ancient endless chain Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need! Of work the men! Of take the pay! Of owning everything for one’s own greed! I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil. I am the worker sold to the machine. I am the Negro, servant to you all. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean— Hungry yet today despite the dream. Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers! I am the man who never got ahead, The poorest worker bartered through the years. Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream In the Old World while still a serf of kings, Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, That even yet its mighty daring sings In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned That’s made America the land it has become. O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas In search of what I meant to be my home— For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore, And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea, And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came To build a “homeland of the free.” The free? Who said the free? Not me? Surely not me? The millions on relief today? The millions shot down when we strike? The millions who have nothing for our pay? For all the dreams we’ve dreamed And all the songs we’ve sung And all the hopes we’ve held And all the flags we’ve hung, The millions who have nothing for our pay— Except the dream that’s almost dead today. O, let America be America again— The land that never has been yet— And yet must be—the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME— Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose— The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath— America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain— All, all the stretch of these great green states— And make America again!

Featured on (From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.)

September 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, September 7, 2015

5 Tips for Helping Students Jump into a New Semester

It has been a typical summer in Washington DC with temperatures soaring. My local pool has been closed for repairs long enough to build a new pool in its place, so I was pleased to find out that the pool at my university was open for recreational swimming for a couple of hours a day. 

My experience with “serious” pools—vast pools with diving blocks and deep ends—is limited. It turns out the university has a serious pool. I am accustomed to getting into a pool via the steps at the shallow end or sitting on the concrete edge and sliding into the water. Serious pools, or at least this one, have a filtration system around the circumference, a gurgling metal gill that does not invite sitting. After walking all the way around the pool, I concluded there was only one way in. I jumped.

A law student enrolling in a clinic for the first time may be more than a little puzzled about how to get started. There is a lot we can do to ease the process. Here are five tips for helping students jump in:

1. Provide a Refresher on Legal Ethics. Even if students have taken professional responsibility as a prerequisite to enrolling in a clinic, they probably need a refresher on how the rules apply in practice. While most students understand that the rules on confidentiality bar them from mentioning a client by name and regaling their friends with details of a custody battle over a frosty mug of beer, they might not understand that they could reveal a client’s secrets inadvertently by tweeting about a case, by leaving client documents on the kitchen counter where a housemate could read them, or by having a private conversation with a client in a public place. In addition to confidentiality, we talk to students on the first day about dealing with unrepresented parties, the prohibition on communicating with represented parties, avoiding the unauthorized practice of law, and the role of the supervising attorney.

2. Offer Some Explanation for the Reasons Behind the Rules. Every clinic develops ways of getting the work done—the sign-in board that allows the office manager to know at a glance if a student has arrived, the conference room booking process, the practice of rooting out the refrigerator on Friday afternoons. Many office procedures allow a lot of people to work together harmoniously in a small space. Even if your clinic has an office manual (and it should), it is worthwhile to talk in detail with students about the why behind some of the rules. While it may seem obvious that one administrative assistant who works with 30 students cannot be reasonably expected to print and scan a brief 15 minutes before it has to be filed, it may not be obvious to a student who has never filed a brief or even worked in an office. 

3. Communicate Your Thoughts about Using Forms. Students are hungry for models and will ferret them out either in your clinic’s archives or online. There is great value in learning how to draft a motion from scratch, but I can guarantee that most students are just a couple of mouse clicks away from finding a sample “Motion to Quash” if that is what the case calls for. If you don’t want students cannibalizing documents, tell them. If you conclude, as I have, that it is inevitable that students will find and use models, talk with them about the importance of tailoring a model to the fit the client’s needs. As John Warnock observed, “A form, by definition, was developed on some other occasion for some other situation.”[1]

4. Talk with Students Explicitly About Their Role. Whatever your clinic is like, it is probably unlike anything students have experienced before. Think about ways you can help students understand these fundamental differences. There are various ways to do this. David Chavkin draws a helpful analogy between ways of learning to practice law and of learning how to organize a kitchen.[2] We ask our students to read it.

5. Disclose Your Own Eccentricities. No, I’m not talking about the fact that you wash your coins at night before releasing them to the world the next day or that your collection of garden gnomes now numbers in the hundreds. What I am talking about are those small things that students do or don’t do that bug you and whether by communicating your preferences, you might avoid some problems. Some people really don’t mind if a student starts every email with the salutation “Hey!” and some people mind very much. Personally, I hate chasing after students to find out if they received an email (and I’m pretty sure they hate being chased), so I ask my students to reply to every email I send. I let them know they don’t have to address the substance and that a quick “Got it,” “Will do,” “Seriously?” or “Yes, My Captain” will do. I also tell them that this preference may be peculiar to me and that other supervisors might be annoyed that students were cluttering up the supervisor’s inbox, so it is important to ask.

One final observation. When I told a friend about how perplexed I was about getting in the pool, he said, “You know, you could have used the ladder.” He is, of course, right about that. And so too, there is more than one right way for students to immerse themselves in clinical work. By offering a little more explicit guidance, we can ease our students’ transition into clinical work, however they choose to immerse themselves. The one thing we want to avoid is seeing students still pacing anxiously be the edge of the pool in October. We need to find a way to invite them in. The water is fine.

[1] John Phelps Warnock & Harold C. Warnock, Effective Writing: A Handbook with Stories for Lawyers 28 (2003).

[2] David F. Chavkin, Clinical Legal Education: A Textbook for Law School Clinical Programs 7 (2001).

September 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 4, 2015

How My Bathroom Renovation is Making Me into a Better Lawyer

We are on week six of a bathroom remodel that has all six in our household sharing a half-bath...while potty-training our two year old. Currently, there is no end in sight.

I know. First world problems. But still quite tiring.

The hold up is the tile. We are renovating a 1930’s bathroom, down to the studs, and building it back up again to look just like it did in the first place...minus the cracked tile, the toilet that runs all day, and the caking grout.

As it turns out, the jadeite green tile is pretty hard to find. It’s not as popular as it once was and after scouring home renovation blogs for months, I was able to find two places that still sell it after all these years: the local company that makes it, and the other company that buys it from the local company and sells it for twice as much online. It seemed so perfect! It was a home renovation miracle. How fantastic to find that I live within 30 miles of the source. Except that it hasn’t been fantastic.

What I’ve learned, is that making tile does not work like clockwork. Now on our fifth delay, we are still waiting for the last few boxes of green tile so that our (very patient) contractor can get started on this final phase. What I have also learned is that if you are the only source of said tile, you have no reason to hurry, or make things better, or apologize, or accommodate your customer’s suggested discount. You are not particularly worried about a bad Yelp review.

Where else is your customer going to go?

The answer is nowhere.  

As I was driving home from work last week, mulling over this frustrating situation, it occurred to me that it is not the inconvenience of being down to one bathroom that has been bothering me. The deeper issue is that I am not used to being without recourse.

Now that seemed worthy of reflection.

I am not accustomed to being powerless. If you inconvenience me, I can usually find a way to remedy the situation. And if not, I can find a subtle way to make you pay. Or apologize. Or wish you had acted differently. I’m a lawyer, after all. Now, I’m not a mean person, so usually I do so with a pleasant disposition, but we both leave knowing who’s boss. I’m not necessarily proud of this, but I don’t think I’m alone, particularly within our profession.

Over the past several years I have been increasingly interested in the connections between spiritual and professional formation. Spiritual formation includes the well-known practices of prayer and meditation, fasting, and the like, but there are also small, seemingly insignificant practices that help us to address larger issues in our lives. For example, in order to address impatience, one might seek out the longest line in the grocery store or choose to drive in the slow lane on the freeway. These practices help one to be more mindful of one’s shortcomings and seek out opportunities to practice the more virtuous response.

I think of them as little “catches’ to keep us from living life on auto-pilot.

This idea has lead me to think in new ways about my own professional formation. Just as I am asking my students to be intentional about who they are becoming in the legal profession, I want to be careful to ask the same of myself. I don’t know that I’m inspired enough to go seeking out inconvenience or powerlessness. I certainly will be taking a break before we remodel any other room in our house. But I do think there is value in leaning into these experiences as they arise and acknowledging them as professionally formative opportunities.

As I’ve reframed my own experience in this way, I’ve been surprised by the way that it has refreshed and awakened my empathy for my clients. Though I am fully aware that our struggles are in no way the same, I have found myself more attuned to their feelings of powerlessness and more patient with the ways that they respond to their particular stressors. Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself asking different kinds of questions and communicating in new, hope-infused ways. As I enter my twelfth year of teaching in my legal aid clinic, this kind of recharged empathy is a gift.

Not a bad tradeoff for a box of green tile.


September 4, 2015 in Religion, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Changing Same

Every new class of clinicians is different. Many clinic sessions (semesters or years) have the same characteristics but each is its own entity. This year is no different.

But the challenge this year is quite different for a clinic that is, what I like to believe, a “hit the ground running” kind of operation.  Our students can expect to be engaged in the work of lawyers fairly quickly under supervision and support of course. The flexible rules in Michigan allow law students to do anything a licensed attorney can do.

Usually, in all my years of teaching there is always one or two students, maybe even four or five, who return and who provide the leadership and example for the new students by enrolling in advanced clinic or Clinic II.  These students not only can accept work as it comes into the clinic right away but they are the mentors to the new students. They let them know that all will be well; this clinic deal is nothing to worry about and is an important piece of their legal education. 

Yet, this year, for the first time, I have “0” returning students. None.  I have all new students and nearly all of them are 2Ls. It is quite a paradox.  I am not worried about the work as much as I am wondering why is this so, how did this happen?

I have two theories.  First, last year a number of students who had never taken any clinics, who had limited real life experiences in their law school education, applied for the clinic I teach and direct.  They panicked, in other words in their last year and flooded the clinic. I remember.

Most of my students last year graduated. I had three who could have come back this year but two of them got internships and the other worked as my research assistant over the summer (after a year in clinic) so that student felt as if they had gained all they could.

As for the 3Ls, here they were in their last year and had little if any clinical experience or experience of real lawyers to enhance their resume. They had to do something.  Usually, these students get a little harder look during the consideration process. We want them to get some experience so they can at least put the clinic down on their Linked In pages when they apply for jobs. They usually get into a clinic if they want one and many did. This is one reason for my new look rookie clinic.

Second, the fact that a bunch of 2Ls this year with no experience have all enrolled in clinic reflects the reality that the constant preaching of “skills ready” and “experiential” education is sinking into the minds of today’s law student. They want to leave law school having a feel for the work. They are concerned. This was also self-evident during the interviews when each student said, I wanted to find out what being a lawyer is about, or I wanted to do real work, not just sit in a classroom and listen to lectures.

These two realities met at the crossroads in my clinic and so I have an all rookie team.  I wonder is anyone else experiencing this development because more students feel the drive to obtain real world experience all of a sudden and are pushing for it.

Nevertheless, it is challenging and exciting. No veterans available. No cagey, responsible, reliable, seasoned student clinicians to provide the director with a little comfort this term.  “The changing same” of legal education and the profession is having all kinds of effects upon how our teaching occurs.   I swear I can hear David Bowie singing “Changes.” Or is that Sam Cooke singing, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

September 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)