February 26, 2008
Sameer M. Ashar on Law Clinics and the Poor
Poor people are not served well by the kinds of advocacy currently taught and reinforced in most law clinics. The canonical approaches to clinical legal education - (1) a nearly exclusive focus on individual client empowerment, (2) professional skills transfer, and (3) lawyer-led impact litigation and law reform - are not sufficient to sustain effective public interest practice in the current political moment. These approaches rely on a practice narrative that does not accurately portray the conditions faced by poor people or the resistance strategies devised by groups with activist organizers. At the margins of the field, law school clinics and innovative legal advocacy organizations have played a key role in developing a new public interest practice. Lawyers and law students support and stimulate radical democratic resistance to market forces by developing litigation, legislative, and community education methods to advance collective mobilization. This article offers a typology of clinical approaches, a critique of the canon, and a description of the features of an alternative clinical model with the ultimate aim of reconfiguring public interest law.
He presented it at my school (AU) which has many of leaders of the sorts of clinical education that he critiques in the paper, and it was a great talk.
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