Monday, September 16, 2019

Jennifer Lee Koh: Reflections on Elitism After the Closing of a Clinic: Justice, Pedagogy and Scholarship

Read this important, insightful essay from Prof. Jennifer Lee Koh. She reflects critically on the ecosystems of legal education and the importance of legal clinics in all kinds of law schools. For access to justice, a better profession, and more vibrant public life, we need law schools serving communities and states that are not "elite," that exist on every plane of our unfortunate hierarchies. 

I began my teaching career at Faulkner Law, a regional, newly accredited, relatively small law school, in a state with great needs and fewer resources. Faulkner had a real, valuable commitment to clinical legal education, because the clinics were important to students who needed to be practice- and client-ready for their communities and because clinics advanced its faith-driven mission to serve its communities. In many regional, "unranked" law schools, clinics are more important than ever in preparing great lawyers to serve their neighbors and clients. 

Prof. Koh's essay and her experience at Western State is important. We all should reckon with the gravitational effects of elitism and its pursuit. 

Here's the essay at SSRN and its abstract: 

In this Essay, I reflect upon my experience directing the Immigration Clinic at Western State College of Law for nearly a decade, including my decision to close the Clinic after financial crisis put the law school’s ability to continue operating in serious jeopardy in the Spring of 2019. The Essay focuses on the themes of pedagogy and the viability of non-elite law schools, teaching and doing social justice in the clinical context, and the integration of theory, doctrine and practice in legal scholarship. By memorializing a portion of the Clinic’s work, the Essay seeks to give voice to stories that might otherwise go unheard during a time of institutional crisis. In doing so, I hope to disrupt the easy narratives that may otherwise dominate our understanding of Western State’s record and offer a perspective on the value of clinical legal education and clinic scholarship at non-elite law schools.

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