Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2016 National Jurist rankings for Practical Training

National Jurist has released its rankings of law schools for practical training.

In the article, the editors explain their methodology.  Clinics account for 38% of the ranking scores, derived from ABA data on the number of clinic seats filled relative to upper level enrollment.  Externships accounts for 24% of the ranking scores, based on the numbers of students in externships relative to the number of upper level students, likewise based on ABA data.  Simulation courses account for 21% of the ranking scores, reckoned similarly from ABA data.  Interschool competitions account for 5% of the scores, and the final 10% of the scores are for other  programs, like pro bono, that are not reflected in the other categories. 

Here are the top 25 schools from this year's rankings:

  1. Northeastern
  2. University of St. Thomas (MN)
  3. Yale
  4. UC-Irvine
  5. Washington & Lee
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Arizona
  8. BYU
  9. Denver
  10. Pepperdine
  11. Colorado
  12. UMKC
  13. Utah
  14. Northwestern
  15. Case Western
  16. Brooklyn
  17. Wyoming
  18. Mitchell Hamline
  19. Mississippi
  20. Golden Gate
  21. Kansas
  22. Liberty
  23. New Hampshire
  24. Cardozo
  25. Drake

March 22, 2016 in Clinic News, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Talking to Our Students about the Election—Just Kidding!

I was walking out of our university cafeteria yesterday in my characteristically rushed state with an empty stomach, a couple of “To Go” boxes intended to last through midnight, and a 12:30 p.m. meeting with students just minutes away when a young man I did not recognize (an undergraduate student perhaps?) leaned across a poster and said something. My mind rapidly assessed my priorities as I noticed his highly corrective glasses, a discreet hearing aid, and a pronounced speech disability. The cascading moments came to a standstill, and I apologized. “Would you please promise to never use the ‘R-word’?” he repeated as he handed me a pen.

“Of course,” I said, as my hand tried to scribble a flourished signature across the top right-hand corner of the poster. The white space remained nameless. My pen was dry. As I borrowed another pen from a student sitting nearby, my eyes scanned the writing across the top of the poster: “Pledge to End the R-Word.” I wondered who this young man was, what his disability was, whether it mattered, and what would become of him and his pursuit of dignity and respect after the U.S. presidential election.

The Super Tuesday results were so definitive the night before that the leading candidates for both parties were announced well before bedtime. The night was restless. It was clear to all that the 2016 presidential election had become an interminable political version of the “The Jerry Springer Show,” but without a remote, volume control, mute function, or an on/off button.

Worse than the reality show nature of the election is the fact that support for the leading Republican candidate appears to increase with the frequency of comments and gestures and policies that are degrading to the disabled, women, minorities, and immigrants. Crowds applaud when he advocates for widespread discrimination against legally protected groups. They holler and cheer when he pours forth chest-thumping threats celebrating violence. And they laugh when he physically impersonates people, like the young man standing before me whose spine appears slightly bent, and his hands just a little curled. Yes, he is different, but not much. We all are—just a little bit different—but mostly the same.

The candidate also uses the “R-word.” Indeed, he uses a lot of words. “I know words. I know all the best words,” he has bragged with a bravado bred in fear and born from cowardice. “Is the R-word one of them?” I wonder.

And so I occasionally speak out, largely in my home or more often in my mind. Occasionally, there are hushed conversations, but mostly I am silently screaming. The first time I found myself silently screaming was the night of the Iowa caucuses. It was one of the busiest weeks of the semester, with client interviews running late into the evening. The clinic was humming and rushing with students and staff hurrying between our clients and our iPhones and computer screens watching the caucus results roll in.

As I walked into the student lab, I casually asked a student looking at the results on his computer screen, “Who are you voting for?” I immediately wanted to take my words back. Our teacher/student relationship gave me almost all of the power and privilege, and my job as an employee of a 501(c)(3) organization, especially while doing my job at my place of employment—8:00 p.m. or not—had brought me perilously close to an improper interaction.

I have been advising non-profits for nearly 20 years; teaching our students non-profit law in our Business Law Clinic for nearly ten. I knew the words nearly by heart: “[501(c)(3) organizations] may not participate in, or intervene in . . . any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Part of the erasure I desired was that I did not want to say anything that would jeopardize my employment or the tax-exempt status of my university, but a larger part of my desire was that I did not want to abuse my relationship with a student—a relationship in which there is an inherent imbalance of power.

But it was the student’s response that fundamentally compelled my desire to unlive the moment. He proudly and cavalierly told me he was voting for the candidate who not only uses the R-word, but condones war crimes, torture, discrimination, and assault--someone who publicly observes that some women “look good on [their] knees.” And I want to scream. I knew that the candidate had a sizeable (and growing) following, but I assumed that they were comprised of “others”—not well educated, high performing students working on their doctorate degrees. Not my students.

As my mind raced with ideas about how I could justify “setting this student straight” due to the unique role of law professors in educating our students (and our larger communities) about Constitutional rights, humanitarian law, justice, human rights, and so much more, I said nothing.

I wonder whether in trying to protect my job, I will fail to do my job. Yet, my voice remains silent and my pen is dry.

Well, at least from 9-to-5, and occasionally, from 9-to-8.

March 4, 2016 in Current Affairs, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Flint, Michigan & the Clinical Experience

My students and I traveled to Flint, Michigan recently. We handle all kind of housing matters and quite a few are simple landlord-tenant civil disputes. Flint had its share the night we came specifically as a result of the ongoing toxic drinking water crisis. 

Our visit was at the invitation of one of the law firm’s handing one of the class actions against the state of Michigan and Governor Rick Snyder for their role in the Flint water crisis. The firm, Pitts McGhee, Palmers Rivers had organized a town hall style meeting to register residents who might fit into the class and to inform them of the status of the case. We were invited to offer legal advice to residents who had residential housing questions related to the contaminated water system. Questions like:

Do I have to still pay my rent?
Can I break my lease?
Can I withhold my rent?
If I paid rent and it included water, do I get reimbursed under the state’s reimbursement law?

There were others but these were the most frequent questions.

And landlords.

Am I liable for the toxic water that is flowing through the pipes to the tenants?
Is there a way to check for lead pipes?
Do you help landlords?

The answer to the last question is usually - no, but that night, we tried to answer everyone’s questions. The crisis in the city calls for some new approaches, some flexibility and empathy. The questions were seemingly endless that night; the tragedy almost surreal.

As I walked up to the event, the auditorium where the event was held was already filled to capacity. People were hanging out the doors it was so packed. A guard was turning residents away. There were as many stuck outside as there were inside. There was some tension once it was clear the event was overflowing into the streets. People were everywhere. They wanted to know what was next.

Our clinic does a lot of community educational outreach but this kind of event was not just outreach and education for the public; it was educational for us. It brought the real world into the law school experience in the most real way. This was a national story being covered by CNN, Time Magazine, the New York Times, Democracy Now, and other media outlets. The students would not get many actual clients (we had a number of follow-up calls to make) out of the experience but they would get a unique clinical experience that is important in their overall development.

There were a few things that were notable:

Most of the attendees were black (Flint is 56 percent African-American but their numbers at the event exceeded that amount) though there were individuals from many racial backgrounds.
The residents of Flint were remarkably calm and respectful. They were also quite appreciative we had even showed up to try to help. 
The residents were still a bit in shock that state officials would let this happen and then fail over and over to fix it.

The importance of this clinical experience could not be overstated considering what the students had observed and experienced that night in Flint. I try everyday to bring the real world into my classroom or take the classroom to the real world. This experience was a gem. Our clinic already plans to create a link on our webpage that will provide resource materials on water issues and housing as a result of the Flint crisis. Lead contamination in water systems is an issue that is not likely going away even though the city of Flint is about to replace its pipes. Other cities will likely have to face the problem of lead in drinking water that arose in Flint. 


March 3, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

CLEA Newsletter Spring 2016: Call for Items (Due April 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 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 Spring Newsletter is April 1, 2016. Please e-mail them to tanya.cooper@pepperdine.edu, and please contact us with any questions.

Thanks, and best wishes,

CLEA Newsletter Committee

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

March 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)