Monday, November 30, 2015

JOBS: Pepperdine University School of Law Low Income Taxpayer Clinic

Pepperdine University School of Law seeks applications for its new Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, to launch in January, 2016.  

From the position announcement:

The Supervising Attorney and Adjunct Professor ("Supervising Attorney") will teach and supervise students practicing in the Pepperdine Low Income Taxpayer Clinic ("LITC"). In the LITC, law students learn and train through law practice under the supervision of the Supervising Attorney, and the LITC provides pro bono legal services to clients to settle or adjudicate tax disputes with the IRS. The Supervising Attorney will teach the seminar component of the LITC course with an adjunct faculty appointment. This contributes to the University's mission by increasing the School of Law's capacity to teach, train and form professionals with expertise and integrity, and the LITC increases the School of Law's capacity to serve vulnerable neighbors and communities in poverty. This serves the School of Law's strategic plan by increasing capacity for experiential, clinical and formative education in diverse areas of practice.

The position announcement here contains more information and instructions for applicants.

Please write Prof. Jeff Baker at with questions about the new clinic, the position or Pepperdine’s program of clinical education.

November 30, 2015 in Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Using Thanksgiving to Get to Know Students

Of the many other reasons clinical legal education is a dream job, the ability to get to know our students in a real way is my favorite. It occurred to me this Thanksgiving that I’ve been taking in students every year for the holiday and it is wonderful.

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for law students because they are often too far from home to afford to go back. And, even when they can afford it, the short period of time and the proximity to exams means it often isn’t worth it. Even when students choose not to go home for the holidays, they’re often still blue from missing their families. I’ve been taking students in for Thanksgiving since all the way back when I was a student myself.

The tradition began accidentally. When I was a 2L, I was one of four Indian students at the school (which felt like a regular pow-wow compared to my 1L year where I was the only tribal member). Of the four of us, I was the only one who permanently resided near the school. The others lived on or near their tribal land. One student couldn’t get herself back to the Navajo Nation for the holiday, so I told her she could join us. It was one of the best decisions I made in law school. She’s been with us every Thanksgiving since, except for the one year when she foolishly tried to impress the parents of her new partner by cooking for them. She’s become an auntie to my kids and a true friend.

Since that worked out so well I made it a point to invite students who had nowhere to go every year after that, and I continued that tradition once I became a professor. This tradition has become an invaluable way to get to better know and understand my students. They let their hair down a bit, relax, and talk about life outside of their law school pursuits. It’s terrific to learn about what they’d be doing with their families if they’d been able to go home with them. It’s endearing to hear them on the phone wishing their families a happy holiday, or to hear them comforting a sibling who misses them. It’s great to be reminded to see them as people—not just students.

It’s also rewarding to let them get to see me as a person, too. The aura of the professor dissipates for them a little. They watch me interact with my family, cuss at the football game on the TV, and scramble to get the meal out of the oven and on the table without burning it (which I most certainly did not do!). It’s nice to be able to show them that they have a family away from home should they need it. It’s nice to have even more people to be thankful for.

November 30, 2015 in Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


There are precious few jobs in the world, much less in the legal profession, quite like clinical legal education. We clinical law professors may struggle in our institutions about rank and status, resources and misunderstanding, but we have an inimitable seat to observe and participate in extraordinary work. We clinical program directors enjoy the multiplied variety and challenges that come with running an academic department, managing a law firm, collaborating with talented partners and teaching intense students.   I try never to take for granted the opportunity for such engaging work, even when stress and anxiety ramp up.

Today, I am reflecting, as we do, with gratitude on this work.   At Pepperdine, I am in partnership with brilliant, committed, creative and compassionate lawyer-teachers, Profs. Brittany Stringfellow Otey, Richard Peterson, Tanya Cooper, Jeremy Rosen, Stephanie Bell Blondell, Bob Uhl, and Judy Norris, my law partners and friends, who direct clinics and teach students with grace and heart. We are joined by our beloved Prof. Terry Adamson, former prosecutor and judicial commissioner and long dedicated teacher and coach, who is set to retire as our externship director next month. She is a true friend and loves students with unfailing generosity. Supporting us all is Donna Brabec, our clinical program manager, a consummate professional and humble friend who keeps the enterprise running.  

In our clinics, like almost all clinics, we have the unique opportunity to provide pro bono legal services with our students without the worry of generating revenue from our practice because of the support and vision of our school. This is a manifestation of our institutional commitment to education and to access to justice, in an age of outright crisis of accessible legal services. To have the foundation and support of a university gives us the opportunity and power to affect lives for generations. 

I get to direct the Community Justice Clinic. In its third semester, my students have worked with clients on four continents on matters related to homelessness, gender-based crimes, farm worker safety, day laborer opportunities, human trafficking in South Asia, sustainable agriculture, domestic violence, Amazonian rainforest conservation, surgical services in West Africa, indigenous people’s economic development, access to education for English language learners, environmental policy for public schools, and access to water, cooking fuel and sanitation in rural African villages. They blow me away. Never in my life have I enjoyed being a lawyer more.  I didn't dream of a practice like this when I first joined a firm in a small Mississippi town at twenty-four years old. 

My colleagues and our students have represented clients on Skid Row, America’s densest concentration of homelessness; clients with disabilities seeking fair accommodations in education to which they are entitled as civil (and human) rights; clients seeking to expand access to federal courts in forma pauperis; clients seeking to protect their First Amendment rights in prison; clients seeking to recover their life savings from predatory brokers. Our students have mediated cases of housing and employment discrimination and conflicts between pro se litigants to seek justice and reconciliation in Los Angeles communities.   We are launching new clinics in 2016 in which students will represent victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and gender-based crimes, joining the struggle for justice in one of the greatest causes of our age, and in which students will represent indigent clients in tax disputes that can leave them shackled with debt or liberated to pursue new opportunities. What a gift we have to practice law like this.  

I might be boasting a little bit, but mostly I am incredibly grateful for the rare opportunity to get to do this work. In what other job can we witness students in such beautiful, terrifying, stressful and exhilarating moments of transformation? They rise to the occasion with strength, creativity, zeal and competence, and they change the world. With our students, we get to join with righteous clients and partners to bring more light, love and justice to the world. There are setbacks, failures, defeats, death and hardship, but at least we have a fighting chance and the invitation to join in their dignified lives.  

Soon, it'll be back to the fight, politics, struggle and hard work to keep and expand this work.  On Thanksgiving, though, I am grateful for this opportunity and calling. I am grateful for colleagues, students and clients. I am grateful for the community of clinical legal educators. I am grateful to be a lawyer and teacher.          

November 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bryan Adamson Receives 2016 William Pincus Award

Congratulation to our very own Professor Bryan Adamson of Seattle University School of Law who will receive the 2016 William Pincus Award from the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education!

From the announcement by Jayesh Rathod:

The Executive Committee of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education is pleased to announce that Professor Bryan Adamson of Seattle University School of Law has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the William Pincus Award.  We will recognize all of Bryan’s achievements and present the award at the Clinical Section’s luncheon on Friday, January 8, at the AALS Annual Meeting in New York City.

The William Pincus Award is one of the highest honors bestowed upon a clinical educator.  The Award recognizes 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.  Over the course of a career in law teaching that spans more than 20 years, Bryan has achieved excellence in all of these areas.

Bryan has taken on major leadership roles within the clinical community, including Chair of the Clinical Section, Standing Committee on Clinical Legal Education, Clinicians of Color Committee, and Co-Chair of the Task Force on Clinical Legal Education.  He is also a prolific scholar, having published over 15 law review articles or book chapters across a range of subject matter areas.  At Seattle University School of Law, Bryan has pioneered numerous cutting-edge programs, and spearheaded the creation of a Community Development and Entrepreneurship Clinic and also a Predatory Lending Clinic.  Bryan has led our clinical community in responding to complex challenges, including the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the racial justice concerns that underlie that Black Lives Matter movement.  Indeed, Bryan was the primary organizer for the Black Lives Matter event at the Clinical Conference earlier this year.

In addition to these impressive contributions, Bryan’s nominators also emphasized his personal qualities, including his selfless, giving, and amiable nature.  A colleague from Seattle University shared the following: “Bryan is among the most kind, generous, funny, creative and humble people on the planet.  He is beloved by his students, the staff, and faculty that have the honor of working with him every day.” 

Please join us in congratulating Bryan on this important recognition!

November 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Freedom From Domestic Violence is a Fundamental Human Right

Over at the Human Rights Law Prof blog, we recently reported State College, Pennsylvania's adoption of a resolution protecting victims from  domestic violence

My clinical fellow, recent Penn State Law grad Courtney Kiehl, tells the story in her own words:


November 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Nous Pleurons

For the people of Paris

For people around the world who feel equally unsafe

For people who flee their homeland for safety

For people around the world whose lives were lost at the hands of terror

For people who feel marginalized or victimized or excluded as a result of their race/gender/culture/religion/sexual identity/ideas/physical abilities and anything else that prompts others to highlight their differences rather than their similarities

For people who struggle in silence

For people who live in poverty

For all of us, as this heartbreak knows no boundaries across campuses, countries and continents.

Let us be part of the solution, and demonstrate that when we all stand together, evil cannot win.

November 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mark Your Calendars for Next Clinical Writers' Workshop at NYU

This was just announced:

"The Clinical Law Review will hold its next Clinical Writers’ Workshop on Saturday, September 24, 2016, at NYU Law School.

The Workshop provides an opportunity for clinical teachers who are writing about any subject (clinical pedagogy, substantive law, interdisciplinary analysis, empirical work, etc.) to meet with other clinicians writing on related topics to discuss their works-in-progress and brainstorm ideas for further development of their articles. Attendees will meet in small groups organized, to the extent possible, by the subject matter in which they are writing. Each group will “workshop” the draft of each member of the group.

Participation in the Workshop requires the submission of a paper because the workshop takes the form of small group sessions in which all members of the group comment on each other’s manuscripts. By June 30, all applicants will need to submit a mini-draft or prospectus, 3-5 pages in length, of the article they intend to present at the workshopFull drafts of the articles will be due by September 1, 2016.

As in the previous Clinical Law Review Workshops, participants will not have to pay an admission or registration fee but participants will have to arrange and pay for their own travel and lodging. To assist those who wish to participate but who need assistance for travel and lodging, NYU Law School has created a fund for scholarships to help pay for travel and lodging. The scholarships are designed for those clinical faculty who receive little or no travel support from their law schools and who otherwise would not be able to attend this conference without scholarship support. Applicants for scholarships will be asked to submit, with their 3-5 page prospectus, by June 30, a proposed budget for travel and lodging and a brief statement of why the scholarship would be helpful in supporting their attendance at this conference.  The Board will review all scholarship applications and issue decisions about scholarships in early July. The scholarships are conditioned upon recipients’ meeting all requirements for workshop participation, including timely submission of drafts, and will be capped at a maximum of $750 per person.

If you have any comments or suggestions you would like to send us, we would be very happy to hear from you. Comments and suggestions should be sent to Randy Hertz at

-- The Board of Editors of the Clinical Law Review"

November 12, 2015 in RFP, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Law Practicums in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties

This semester in Pepperdine's clinical education program, we launched the Veterans Law Practicum, a pilot program with the Ventura County Public Defender. In the practicum, students apply for structured placements with the PD to work in Veterans Treatment Court. The Vet Court is part of the Collaborative Justice Court Program by the Ventura County Superior Court.

Through the Vet Court, veterans or former members of the military service, regardless of their discharge status, can access alternative sentencing and diversionary programs when they can establish a nexus between their military service and disability with the crimes for which they are charged. The PD represents these clients to advocate for restorative and therapeutic services, like drug counseling, housing, job training, mental health services and increased public benefits, instead of jail time. The students work with clients at every phase of the cases, from identifying potential candidates in local jails, to advice and counsel, to round-table collaborative negotiations with prosecutors, probate, the VA, the Vet Center, addiction and mental health counselors. Students move to arraignment, motion practice, pleas and sentencing, and ultimately their clients' graduation from the program. The Ventura County Public Defender has one of the smartest field placement programs in the country to develop young lawyers, and our students have thrived there.   California's state-wide, interagency task force for veterans is evaluating this practicum as a model for courts throughout California for over two million vets in the  state.

On the strength of the program, we are launching a second course, the Veterans Law Practicum (Los Angeles), with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. In the LA practicum, students will apply for field placements in NLSLA’s Veterans Empowerment Initiative. The Initiative provides coordinated legal services in multidisciplinary collaborations, including expungements and discharge upgrades. By working with veterans on these matters, lawyers may remove obstacles from veterans in cycles of homelessness and poverty and can unlock critical VA benefits to improve physical and mental health, housing and job prospects.

In a season of tight law school budgets and increasing demand for experiential learning, these collaborations are invaluable to the law school. They help us punch above our weight by providing excellent experiences for students and critically useful legal services to vulnerable clients.

To these clients we owe our greatest public trust for sending them into harm’s way for the sake of our nation. We are proud and honored to work beside these heroic lawyers representing our heroic veterans.

November 11, 2015 in New Clinical Programs | Permalink | Comments (1)


Every time my students and I show up for our regular Thursday Students in Court day in the middle of Michigan in a tiny city known as Mason, we get most of the cases of people who have jobs. They are working men and women, struggling to get by, on wages which are too low, and bills that are too high.  Without our clinic though, they would have no lawyer. They make too much to get a legal aid lawyer and not enough to bring their own. 

We are part of a unique program in Mason. It is called the Eviction Diversion Program and was started through a partnership of the District Court, its judges and staff, and several non-profit organizations including our own, the Housing Law Clinic at Michigan State University College of Law. Our clinic tries to keep many irons in the fire regarding our community based legal work but when it comes to actual direct representation of a person, this is our big fish.  The community needed this because the area had too many evictions and not enough lawyers to stop them or at least help people find housing and leave responsibly.

So back to my original point. Our clinic gets most of the consumers who have jobs, who are not destitute poor and broken down because Legal Aid (Legal Services of South Central Michigan) can’t take these cases. They, the consumers, make too much money. People who make sandwiches at Quiznos for barely minimum wage or gas station attendants who have second jobs. Truck drivers. Part time school teachers (substitutes). Last week I had a couple who both had decent jobs but were still caught up in our world of overpriced units and underpaying employment. These are the invisible people who are in between the income trap fixed years ago by the ridiculous guidelines of the federal government that says you can't get legal aid unless you are eating out of a trash can. They need a legal discount. In some cities, these individuals would be called ‘low bono.’ 

The American Lawyer recently defines 'low bono' as "legal services at affordable rates to people with modest incomes who don't qualify for free legal aid because they're not poor enough." Surely, legal clinics at law colleges and schools might be tempted to enter this frontier in the future in various ways. I am sure there are plenty of people waiting. Georgetown University Law Center has done so; I assume other projects are in the works. Why is this? Who knows?

Low wages? They have been repressed for nearly 40 years now. Is the cost of living up? Surely. Fact is, there has never been a plan for this kind of legal customer.  People with means had lawyers and a small number of poor people can get a lawyer these days. Everyone else is at the mercy of the system.

I once worked at a law firm that offered Pre-Paid legal services to clients of this nature. It was kind of a play upon the health care model. Union members paid monthly for the services, if they needed it, and we provided legal services to them. We did everything from drafting legal documents so they could start small business to comprehensive family matters.  I once did a Amazon arbitration for a firefighter with a small hauling business who got shortchanged in the early days of Amazon delivery.I know now this was part of the “low bono” legal world before anyone I knew coined the term. 

Is this kind of legal work for some law school clinics in the future? Only time will tell. 

November 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What if I had no sense of humor? Oh wait, I don’t…

Clinical teaching and lawyering for the poor can both be hard, and having a sense of humor can help with both. Or so I am told. I am also told I have no sense of humor. My family often struggles to explain me to others. They sometimes say to our friends after I tell a joke “Okay, let me explain to you what I think he’s trying to say and maybe you’ll think it’s funny. Then again, maybe you won’t.” My son has his “No Dad Jokes” t-shirt, which I of course bought him to support him for having to listen to way too many of them from me.

            A judge, a prosecutor, two law students, a cow, and a duck walk into a bar, and the bartender says, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Now you’re seeing it, too.

I tried humor earlier this week in my teaching. I was teaching about letter writing. I wanted to make a point that writing short, clear sentences could be helpful. I also wanted to help students think with me about whether we should express our feelings about the outcomes of cases in our letters to clients when we lose and we are disappointed. I gave my students a letter I wrote for them to edit which included the following portion: “I feel sad that we cannot help. Fair it is not. The law it is.” I was amused. I thought my students would be. They were not. It was a try. I thought it would wake them up as they struggle to focus mid-semester and lead to a good conversation. It led to some discussion. It pointed them to the part of the letter I wanted them to consider. It may not have helped me teach, though, as to some it was distracting and made it harder for them to think about the issue. Maybe I have to be funnier before I can teach with humor.

            An empirical researcher walks into a bar and notices all the patrons are white. He says to the bartender “Don’t you believe in integration?” The bartender replies, “You’re the one that’s supposed to be so great at statistics. Don’t you know that integration never makes a difference?” (Ask you nerdy calculus friends if that makes no sense to you).

Are you seeing the problem yet?

I also have tried black humor in class. How horrible it is for my students to watch the conditions of our clients. Some have a particularly hard time watching as we document disabling and potentially terminal medical conditions for our clients to support their disability claims, all while the clients struggle with no money, no home, and no prospect of improving their world. Regularly, as more evidence comes in describing the clients' deteriorating health, we learn to say to each other “Hurray! He really does have cancer!” a clear black humor defense mechanism to deal with the fact that our clients might win their cases but die in the process. Sometimes it helps, and may later help some deal with burnout of seeing one tragic case after another. It could, however, be thought of as callus, unhelpful, and dehumanizing our clients. Maybe I have to be funnier before I can use humor this way.

In law school, time in meaningless. In time, law school is meaningless.

Perhaps there is value of using humor in teaching. Maybe I am not that funny. And maybe humor can be distracting. Maybe, however, there are times that it can help. In the meantime, to paraphrase my son’s new favorite t-shirt, that my wife bought this time so maybe it really is funny: Calm we will keep. Carry on we must.

November 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lucy Jewel on the Critical Need to Collapse the Doctrine/Skills Dichotomy

Via TaxProf Blog, here is critical work from Prof. Lucy Jewel of Tennessee, calling for the collapse of the doctrine/skills dichotomy and its resulting hierarchies, in her article, Oil and Water: How Legal Education's Doctrine and Skills Divide Reproduces Toxic Hierarchies, 31 Colum. J. Gender & L. 111 (2015):

An excerpt from the abstract:

[T]he antipodal positioning of doctrine and theory over skills and practice harms law schools’ ability to prepare a new generation of law students to engage in both critical lawyering and law reform. As American society becomes increasingly unequal and as its criminal justice system barrels well past the breaking point, we desperately need the next generation of law students to participate in a new era of structural law reform. But unlike the last major era of reform in the United States (the Progressive Era), where ill-conceived top-down solutions were theorized and implemented by a small subset of elite lawyers, this time, reform should emerge from a coalition of lawyers hailing from all law schools and all levels of society. Even in legal education’s current situation, with tenure for law professors on the chopping block due to declining student enrollment and legal employment prospects, law schools should commit to collapsing the false binary between doctrine and skills.

November 3, 2015 in Scholarship, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

CLEA Newsletter Winter 2015-16: Call for Items (Due December 1)

On behalf of the CLEA Newsletter committee, I am happy to announce that it is once again time to send information for the CLEA Newsletter.  We invite you to submit your creative writing and shorter articles on clinical andragogy and social justice topics.  We also welcome your good news: promotions, moves, new experiential teachers, retirements, publications, and awards.  Links to articles and press releases are welcome. 

Please keep your clinician news items as short as possible (50 word limit per news item). Longer submissions are subject to editing by the newsletter. To avoid duplicating information published in the AALS Clinical Section Newsletter, CLEA will publish clinical program news on its Facebook page. 

We hope that you will consider allowing CLEA to feature your writing.  The deadline for submissions for the Winter 2015-16 Newsletter is December 1, 2015. Please e-mail them to, and please contact us with any questions.

Thanks, and best wishes,
CLEA Newsletter Committee

Tanya Asim Cooper, Susan Donovan, D’lorah Hughes & Kate Kruse


November 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)