Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Designing Transactional Clinics for Impact - Guest Post by Joe Pileri

One of the panels that I sat on at the Transactional Clinical Conference in Philadelphia last year focused on designing transactional clinics for impact.  Professors Alicia Plerhoples of Georgetown and Lynnise Pantin of Boston College led the panel with me.  Of particular interest to the attendees and panelists was balancing student desire for exposure to individual client matters with building capacity to help broader client communities and participate in policy initiatives.  The folks at the Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law were kind enough to let me to publish thoughts from that panel in their recent edition.The panel was well attended and many clinicians reported that both they and their students had an interest in making impact work part of their clinics.  Panelists and attendees shared their experiences with different kinds of clinic designs and tradeoffs that they perceived with different designs.  They also shared the benefits to their students and feedback they received from students who had participated in these programs.  The conversation was lively and, in light of recent developments, urgent.

The SSRN abstract reads as follows:

The 2016 presidential election was met immediately around the country with calls to action for lawyers to provide legal representation and resources to vulnerable populations that would inevitably be affected by the incoming presidential administration. Lawyers showed up en masse, for example, at airports to offer services to travelers and families impacted by the executive order banning individuals from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the country. Those lawyers were not alone. Calls also went out around the clinical community to use clinicians’ positions and resources in ways that further our work on behalf of communities which suddenly found themselves potential targets of a new administration. Many transactional clinicians saw the outcry as an “all hands on deck” alarm and asked themselves how they could help.

Transactional clinics, compared with other law school clinics, face unique challenges in responding to threats facing client populations. Our colleagues in other clinics offer students the opportunity to work on advocacy projects, community education initiatives, impact litigation, or other work designed to achieve outcomes beyond individual client representation. Many transactional clinics, however, are structured entirely around representing individual entrepreneurs, businesses, and charities in a range of legal issues. This focus is the result of two phenomena. First, a disproportionate number of law students plan to pursue a transactional practice after graduation compared to the number of transactional experiences available in law school. Second, all clinical experiences are time-limited, and students generally have relatively little transactional law experience to draw on, limiting the amount of work that a transactional clinic can take on during the course of a semester. Representing individual businesses or nonprofits seemingly restricts the impact of students’ work — they can only represent one or two clients per semester. Many businesses and nonprofits remain unserved. 

Every clinic faces trade-offs between directly representing individual clients and taking on projects with broader policy and advocacy goals. For transactional clinics, that trade-off is between giving students hard to obtain transactional experience through representing individual entrepreneurs and organizations and allowing students to assist a wider group through other initiatives. Balancing these trade-offs is particularly important for clinicians interested in leveraging student resources to make their clinics agents of change in a community. 

This commentary explores different options for accomplishing these broader goals, trade-offs that these options pose, and how clinicians navigate those challenges. The following summarizes ideas and challenges, and suggests ways to balance trade-offs and further integrate change-making into clinic design. In the wake of the 2016 election, transactional clinicians will undoubtedly increasingly design clinic work around impact. This commentary aims to help those clinicians in that effort.

I hope that this essay allows transactional clinicians to assess options when it comes to clinical design with an eye towards expanding the reach and impact of the work we all do.  Thanks to all who participated.


Joe Pileri is a Clinical Teaching Fellow with the Social Enterprise & Nonprofit Law Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. More information about Joe and the SENLC is available here.

February 27, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Tip of the Iceberg

From the Field is a recurring column written by current clinical students where they share their perspectives on their own experiences with clinical education.This post is from Lydia Cash, a current 2L at Columbia Law School. Lydia was a student in Columbia's Mediation Clinic last semester and is now in the Advanced Mediation Clinic. 


Conversation, and conflict for that matter, is like an onion. At first, conversation is seemingly whole as it stands, requiring no additional work to derive functional benefit. However, if equipped with the right tools, conversation unfolds into hundreds of layers waiting to be peeled. When peeled back, these layers of conversation reveal copious moving parts, each containing essential information about an individual’s positions, feelings, and interests. These hidden moving parts contain the gems of human emotion and psychological motivators that fit together into the puzzle of conversation and conflict. Mediation has taught me that when faced with conflict, one must learn to identify, process, and differentiate each level of conversation in order to piece together a broader understanding of personal stories. Through mediation and clinical education, I have slowly developed a toolset to analyze and clarify conflict in order to bring about unique resolutions. In daily life, I often feel like a kind of “speech scientist,” tuning into conversations and automatically separating words and sentences into the moving parts of positions, feelings, and interests that drive conflict. I am always fascinated that this simple exercise helps me decipher issues and emotions that are hidden just beneath the iceberg-level conversations people often restrict themselves to when interacting with colleagues. If only everyone could learn to dive below the iceberg-level surface of conversation to discover the hidden gems beneath. We would be much better off attempting to clarify conflict in this way, rather than avoiding conflict altogether and running away from human emotion.

            This tool of active listening is the greatest gift the Mediation Clinic gave me, and I was thrilled to present on this topic to the United Nations Youth Assembly last week. The room was filled with eager young professionals and students of a wide range of ages. They were brilliant, successful individuals from all over the world, from countries as far as Saudi Arabia, Malta, Ecuador, Ghana, and Norway. Walking into the presentation, I was admittedly terrified. How could I, a 2L from Columbia Law School, impart knowledge to these incredibly talented young professionals in a way that kept them engaged? I expected the audience to subside into boredom as the presentation elapsed, but to my surprise, the audience was eager, intrigued, participatory, and full of electric, contagious energy. I felt myself relax and laugh with the crowd as our presentation continued, and I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face as the crowd raised 20+ hands every time we elicited responses. It was phenomenal to teach these young individuals some of the key skills I had learned as a clinical student; it was even more poignant to witness their eagerness to engage with the material and ask questions about implementation in their own countries.

Even though some of the skills we taught seemed basic, such as active listening, reframing, and separating conversation into facts, interests, and feelings, many of the students approached me after the presentation concluded to thank me for this new knowledge and to ask me about my time in the Clinic. I was overjoyed when the students asked me how they could further their use of mediation skills after they returned home. This 1.5-hour presentation is one I will always remember, because through teaching basic mediation skills, we somehow inculcated and established a culture of open-minded willingness to express emotion and engage with others on a personal level. I was uplifted by these young professionals’ positive energy and eagerness to apply mediation skills in their own lives. As I left the U.N. that evening, I reflected on a life-changing consequence of presenting to the Youth Assembly – Simply imparting my own knowledge of mediation gave me more confidence in my public speaking abilities and in my ability to enact positive change in the lives of others.

February 23, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

From the Field is a recurring column written by current clinical students where they share their perspectives on their own experiences with clinical education.This post is from Argemira Flórez, a current 2L at Columbia Law School. Argemira was a student in Columbia's Mediation Clinic last semester and is now taking the Advanced Mediation Clinic. 


One of my main goals while taking the Mediation Clinic last semester was to make a judgment as to whether mediation produces better justice than adjudication. While the lawyer in me found valid claims for both, the citizen in me found that mediation more closely aligns with my view for “better justice.” In my view, mediation produces better justice because it empowers people to be agents of their own change. It returns power to people whose main complaints are usually founded on a loss of power, or agency in some capacity.

Robert A. Baruch Bush is an author whose discussion on mediation vs. adjudication informed my views on why I think mediation produces better justice. In one of his pieces, Bush wrote an imaginary conversation between a judge, law clerk, law professor, and a court administrator, on the legitimacy and need for mediation. Through his realistic, albeit fictional, depictions of the goals of each player in the legal process, I became acutely aware of how the legal system is often much more loyal to its processes than to the people whom it is supposed to be serving through those processes. For example, Bush highlighted the goals of a court administrator as saving time and money. He presented the goals of a law professor as protecting the court as a public institution and promoting its values. Bush contrasted those goals with that of a mediator, which was to reach the best possible substantive result or solution to the parties’ problem. Admittedly, both litigators and mediators are loyal to a process. However, it seems to me that mediators are loyal to a process that more readily cedes to its parties’ will. In ceding to the parties’ will, mediation becomes a process that both protects, and empowers parties as they advocate for themselves. To me, that is better justice.

Unfortunately, I must admit that there are some cases that cannot be resolved through the mediation process. For example, there are many obvious reasons as to why mediation might not be the best means of resolving immigration disputes. Challenges might include power imbalances of the parties at the table, confidentiality concerns, and a heavy influence of law in the mediation However, I should note that the 9th Circuit has approved the use of mediation in some cases in the past (e.g. cases where a change in a petitioner’s situation might allow for an adjustment in status). It is my opinion that in issues of a polycentric nature such as these, the mediation process may fall short of what is actually needed (i.e. policy reform). Nevertheless, I agree with Michael Cardozo when he says that ADR may not be the answer to the resolution of every government problem, but it can play a major constructive role in resolving social policy disputes.

February 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Things I Learned in Mediation

From the Field is a recurring column written by current clinical students where they share their perspectives on their own experiences with clinical education. This post is from Kate Joohyun Lee, a current 2L at Columbia Law School. Kate was a student in Columbia's mediation clinic and is now taking the Advanced Mediation Clinic.


It rains a lot in Indonesia; 4 pm on most days, and it’s usually a downpour. Water skips down the windows, trees dance in the wind, and my dog has tracked mud onto the porch again. I’ve always loved rain. I’ve always loved watching the water come from nowhere and wash things clean. And at the end of it all, the world smells brand new.

Meeting another human being is like looking out the window of your car on a rainy day and noticing the car next to you. You see the shape and perhaps the color of the car, but the details are always changing as you or the other car zooms by. Sometimes you and an unwitting neighbor stop at a red light together, and only then can you sort of see that the paint job is scratched, the side mirror is a bit bent, and is that a dog in the back seat? A university sticker on the back window—a proud mom.

That’s how I felt whenever I mediated. The people sitting at the table and I had stopped at a red light together. We were discussing the effects of human flaws, things that had broken down through a lack of communication, generational poverty, racism, loneliness, anxiety…the list goes on. It’s one thing to conceptually know that people fall through the cracks. It’s another thing to meet them, face-to-face, to shake their cold hands or to offer words of encouragement that hits them in a way you never expected. To find yourself at the copy machine on the third floor of Brooklyn Housing Court, fielding questions from desperate strangers about how to file a complaint. To mediate mundane problems like leaks in the roof and abandoned cars caused by people who were just being human.

Something beautiful about meeting people in their worst place is that a lot of masks come off. In life outside of the mediation room, peaks are endlessly advertised; glimpses of the valleys are rare. But in the mediation room, you’re in the valley with them. This isn’t about victories, it’s about patching up failures and navigating the broken systems that have brought the parties to court.

It would be too simple and naïve of me to say, “this clinic changed me because I saw that so many people found life difficult.” Because I saw in myself flaws and failings, too. I’ve found myself in the valleys. I think of my snap judgments, my impatient moments, my misguided emotions. I think of the many times I assumed people were just rude or unkind, instead of tired, anxious, or lonely. I’ve always hoped that people wouldn’t look at my worst 1% and judge the rest—but I failed to extend that same grace to other people.

I walked into this clinic hoping to come out of it comfortable with conflict. But more than being comfortable with conflict, I am now a bit more comfortable dwelling in the valleys with people. I am a bit more comfortable with being human. A bit more comfortable with sleepless nights, with angry and bitter mornings. With failings and shortcomings and chips on my shoulder and on my nails.

My reconciliation with the broken parts of life have made the beautiful parts of life shine brighter, and now the broken parts hurt less. In becoming comfortable with conflict, strangely, I have found peace.


February 14, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Filling Gaps in the Legal System through Mediation

From the Field is a recurring column written by current clinical students where they share their perspectives on their own experiences with clinical education. This post is from Yoon Won Song.  Born in Seoul Korea, Yoon is currently a third-year student at Columbia Law School. She has taken both Mediation Clinic and Advanced Mediation Clinic in the past and is continuing her third semester of the clinic. 


Mediation clinic taught me to view law in a very special way.  It taught me to accept the imperfections in the legal system and showed me how to navigate and overcome those deficiencies.  As a law student, I used to believe that the legal system effectively reflected the principles of justice, but the more I studied the traditional black letter law, the more I became aware of the system’s shortcomings.  Different people have different conceptions of justice and such complexities cannot be reduced into some master-value rule.  Oftentimes, legal system fails to account for various definitions of justice people have and court judgments do not offer the best solutions. 

Mediating real parties in real life disputes showed me that there are ways to fill such gaps in the traditional legal system.  Court-referred mediation is one of such instruments. Usually, by the time parties appear in court, things have become so adversarial that parties would not independently suggest mediation or negotiation, but many parties I have mediated were open, and even eager, to the idea of mediating and settling.  They wanted to try mediation, settle the matter, and move on.  What made them so eager to try mediation?  Perhaps it’s the anxiety that built up while waiting for a judgment or the crude reality that the judge will side with only one of the parties.  By the time parties appear in court, parties may have become doubtful of their claims than when they initially decided to file their claims in court.  I realized that parties to a lawsuit don’t necessarily seek court judgment and may wish for a different method of resolution. 

Court-referred mediation offers parties a second chance to opt-out of the traditional law and resolve their conflicts through open and honest conversation.  It allows them to find a win-win solution tailored to their specific case that court judgments cannot offer.  Had the judge not refer their cases to mediation some of the most successful settlements I have seen would never have been possible.

As a student in Advanced Mediation Clinic, I also participated in Columbia’s partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), where we learned that even global scale conflicts, complex business disputes, and multi-cultural tensions could be resolved peacefully through mediation and negotiation.  

After being exposed to various types of mediation, I came to realize that mediation can successfully fill the gaps that are present not only in legal system, but in society as well.  Clinical education has shaped the way I view law and society and imparted me with important skills that I will carry personally and professionally after law school.

February 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

All the Feels

From the Field is a recurring column written by current clinical students where we get to hear their perspective on their own experiences with clinical education. This post is from Ayisha McHugh, a current 2L at Columbia Law School. Ayisha was a student in Columbia's mediation clinic and is now taking the Advanced Mediation Clinic.

There are two things I have never particularly enjoyed and have always tried to avoid to the extent that I could: being involved in a conflict and talking about feelings. My apprehension towards conflict was more about my desire to foster and maintain amicable relationships than fear of confrontation. When conflicts arose, I thoughtfully aimed to resolve them by confronting the issue(s) head on. However, my awkwardness towards feelings, talking about feelings, seeing people I did not know well become incredibly emotional was an internal barrier; that may have been rooted in the same desire for a base level of peace and happiness. My awkwardness towards feelings did not prevent me from consoling those in pain. It was more of an internal discomfort, which usually did not manifest externally. If I did not share my thoughts, most probably would not know how uncomfortable highly-emotional situations made me feel. They were not situations that I would willingly place myself in. 
The relevance of me talking about my self- analysis of my reaction towards conflict and feelings is that participating in Columbia Law School's mediation clinic was a willful decision to place myself in scenarios in which there would be conflicts and a lot of feelings. As someone who prefers peace and base-level of positivity, working with people in a conflict was not the least bit easy, but it felt more natural. I wanted to facilitate effectively so that parties could reach their self-determined outcome. Talking about feelings, on the other hand, I felt the film between the internal awkwardness and external expression dissolving. I felt externally awkward thinking about how to deal with other people's feelings. Thankfully, the skillfully executed Mediation Clinic training transformed my understanding of the importance of talking about feelings and addressing them in conflicts. 
My pragmatism had previously prevented me from understanding the relevance of mining through feelings/emotions. I did not see the purpose of the exercise because it seemed like more of a diversion than a critical element to reach a resolution. Through training and application, I gained insight into the ways that feelings can create cemented barriers to progress, which is why they have to be addressed first before attempting to move forward. Feelings can create an impasse and can prevent parties from actively listening to one another, In other words, addressing feelings serves a primary function in conflict resolution. In my internal awkwardness towards feelings I could appropriately identify or categorize feelings, but I was missing a true understanding of their function. Columbia's mediation clinic not only transformed the way that I understand conflict, emotion, and the steps that can lead to resolution, it also helped me understand people better. 


February 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Call for Proposals: 17th Annual Transactional Clinical Conference

The Transactional Clinical Conference Planning Committee is now accepting proposals for the 17th Annual Transactional Clinical Conference. The full RFP is included below.


Please visit the Conference Website for additional information. http://blogs.kentlaw.iit.edu/2018tcc/



17th Annual Transactional Clinicians’ Conference

Breaking Barriers to Entrepreneurship

April 27-28, 2018 – Chicago, Illinois

Conference Website: http://blogs.kentlaw.iit.edu/2018tcc/

The Conference Planning Committee invites your proposals for the 17th Annual Transactional Clinical Conference in Chicago, Illinois on April 27 and 28, 2018.  Proposals can be for workshops, panels, or poster presentations.


Every year, the annual Transactional Clinicians Conference (“TCC”) provides clinicians rare opportunities to up their game, both in teaching students and in assisting entrepreneurs.  In 2018, 100+ transactional clinicians will join forces in Chicago to take on traditional barriers in teaching and practice that have kept new businesses from accessing the high quality legal representation they need to succeed.  

The theme of the 2018 TCC will be “Breaking Barriers to Entrepreneurship.”  We encourage clinicians to propose topics that take a broad and inclusive view of “barriers” to entrepreneurship and innovative approaches to breaking those barriers.  For instance, proposals could address the following:

Barriers for Teachers:

  • Few opportunities for teachers to learn about innovations in teaching
  • Limited law school resources to open and sustain transactional clinics
  • Competing priorities to juggle in teaching, supervising students, institutional service, marketing, administration, fundraising, and scholarship

Barriers for Entrepreneurs

  • Uncertainty as to whether and how to seek legal counsel or legal knowledge
  • Access to legal help and legal knowledge restricted by wealth, geography, language, immigration status, and computer competency
  • Student entrepreneurs unable to translate innovations from the classroom into the marketplace
  • Challenges in accessing capital and other resources, particularly in underserved areas and among underserved populations

Barriers for Communities Wanting to Support Entrepreneurs

  • Limited public knowledge about the legal needs of new businesses
  • Limited public education opportunities to learn about the legal aspects of starting a business
  • Insufficient connections between transactional clinics, law firms and legal service organizations
  • Insufficient connections between transactional clinics and other business support organizations, such as chambers of commerce, incubators, and Small Business Development Centers

The two-day TCC will be organized around workshops, posters, panels, and plenaries that address the above barriers while sharing best practices.  The 2018 TCC Planning Committee invites your proposals for presentations that highlight innovations in:

  • teaching practices
  • expanding access to legal assistance to diverse communities of entrepreneurs
  • helping entrepreneurs find capital, arrange relationships with workers, and protect IP
  • involving students in education efforts to improve public knowledge about how to start a business
  • helping student entrepreneurs translate innovations into new products and services
  • integrating alumni and local bar members in student education
  • utilizing web technology to reach entrepreneurs in remote areas
  • gathering and analyzing case data about entrepreneur clients to assist policymakers

Proposal Specifications

  • Proposals should not exceed 2 pages.
  • The committee welcomes individual and group proposals.
  • For individual proposals, we may endeavor to assemble presenters on panels organized around a common theme.
  • Given the involvement of digital media in students’ and entrepreneurs’ daily lives, presenters will be encouraged to leaven their content with videos, topical news, pictures, and other content.
  • Proposals for workshops or panels should plan for approximately 40 to 50 minutes of presentation time.  Proposals for poster presentations should describe, in general terms, the poster that will be prepared, and presenters should plan for short, continuous conversations with attendees at the poster reception.
  • The TCC  this year will be designed to provide CLE credit for participants.  Speakers and panelists will be required to submit materials required for CLE accreditation.   

Please submit proposals online at http://blogs.kentlaw.iit.edu/2018tcc/presentations/ .  If you have difficulty with any online submissions, contact Heather Harper at [email protected].  Feel free to contact any committee member with questions on the proposals.

If selected, you will be required to submit your conference materials online by March 23 (for sessions intending to generate ethics CLE credits) or April 20 (for all other materials).  

Conference & Hotel Registration

Please register online at http://blogs.kentlaw.iit.edu/2018tcc/rsvp/ .

In your registration, please note any dietary restrictions or special requests (lactation rooms, etc.).  

Group hotel accommodations are available at the Palmer House Hilton, 17 East Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60603.

When booking your travel, please keep in mind that the conference will begin with a poster presentation and reception hosted by Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in the evening on Friday, April 27th.  The conference will begin early on Saturday, April 28th, and there will be a group conference dinner on Saturday, April 28th.  The AALS Clinical Conference will begin on Sunday, April 29th.  

As has been our tradition, we hope to secure funding support to defray at least some hotel expenses. In the event our support is insufficient to cover one night for all participants, we will allocate sponsorship first-come, first-served based on the date of registration for the conference.

To be eligible for this benefit, you must register for the conference, and indicate the nights you will need a hotel room in Chicago.  Once funding is secured, those who received a free night will be registered directly for that night, and any additional attendees who do not receive this benefit will be given a conference code to take advantage of the discounted block rate, which will be available until April 5, 2018.   Please give us your indication as early as possible, as we may need to increase the hotel block for Friday, April 27th to secure a lower rate.

Conference Communication

This year’s conference will be paperless.  All information and materials will be available online at the TCC 2018 website – http://blogs.kentlaw.iit.edu/2018tcc/ .  Please check back frequently for updates on scheduling and materials.  


Your Planning Committee:

Heather Harper (IIT Chicago -Kent)

Esther Barron (Northwestern)

Priya Baskaran (WVU)

Bill Kell (Berkeley)

Lynnise Pantin (BC)

Jennifer Prusak (Indiana)

Vicki Phillips (American)

Steve Reed (Northwestern)

February 6, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)