Wednesday, November 4, 2020

2020 Update from the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law Program of Clinical Education

This is the season of annual reports from clinics across the country, and it's been inspiring to read about the great work happening from so many schools. 

Here is our report from the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law Program of Clinical Education.  Please click through to see details and stories from our nine clinics; robust, global externship program; practicums and pro bono initiatives; and faculty news on our practice, scholarship, service, and leadership. I love my partners and colleagues and our students. It's a rich honor to do this work, even in - maybe especially in - such a fraught year. 

My introductory message: 

2020 is an extraordinary year, a traumatic inflection point that has presented astonishing and unexpected challenges to everyone. The Legal Clinics at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law have risen to those challenges with vision, discipline, creativity, and patience to continue excellent teaching for our students and critical work for our clients.

Our nine clinics, two practicums, and extensive externship program have adapted, taking lessons that we learned from the Woolsey Fire and other interruptions, to advance and expand our work even during the pandemic. Our clinics practice across vast Los Angeles County in widely diverse practice areas among those in the greatest need and at the forefront of our most pressing issues. In a season of profound crisis, our students and faculty are doing remarkable work.  

November 4, 2020 in Clinic News, Clinic Profile | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Pepperdine Launches a New Clinic for Mediating Religious Divorces

This fall, Pepperdine is launching the Jewish Divorce Mediation Clinic. The name is a work in progress (considering variations on theme, like Religious Family Mediation Clinic, etc.), but the work is innovative and important. In partnership with the Jewish Divorce Assistance Center of Los Angeles, and with generous funding from Ms. Chavi Hertz, the Clinic will mediate cases with Jewish families progressing through civil and religious courts.

For divorcing Jewish couples, parties often must receive a religious divorce in addition to a civil divorce. Students of all faiths or of none will work and learn in the clinic under supervision of Prof. Sarah Nissel who has deep roots and expertise in this work. 

The Clinic’s work lies at the intersection of two of our strongest commitments: conflict resolution and interfaith practice. It also fills an important curricular need for family law practice. Students will engage practice in California family law and divorce mediation, and students will study divorce practices from multiple religions, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Sikh traditions.   

We are excited to enter this complex and fascinating practice. Our aim is for students to learn family law and family mediation, religious competence, cultural sensibility, and engagement across traditions and communities. We hope to serve our community and neighbors in profound ways that can promote families’ peace and healing during some of life’s most stressful and traumatic moments. 

The new clinic joins nine other clinics at Pepperdine for 2018-2019. The other general JD clinics include the Community Justice Clinic, Legal Aid Clinic, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic, and Restoration & Justice Clinic. The Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution offers the Investor Advocacy Clinic, Mediation Clinic, and Fair Employment and Housing Mediation Clinic. The Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law continues offering its new Entrepreneurship Clinic. 

August 27, 2018 in Clinic News, Clinic Profile, New Clinical Faculty, New Clinical Programs, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

UDC David A. Clarke School of Law Offers Clinic-Wide Orientation in Fall 2017

This Fall, clinicians at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law boldly embarked on what was, for us, a new collaboration to create a clinic-wide orientation. As many readers will know, UDC-DCSL has a rich clinical history and our clinical program is central to our curriculum. Each graduating student, in both our full-time and part-time (evening) program, must complete two seven-credit clinics. We offer a range of clinics and this semester the five of our clinics slated to operate for full-time (day) students undertook just what we ask our students teams to do, intensive collaboration, in furtherance of our shared goals.

Over the summer we met to try to determine what common ground we shared throughout our clinics – ranging in substantive areas from Legislation to Juvenile and Special Education to General Practice, Housing, and Immigration. (Our Tax Clinic, Community and Economic Development Clinic, and the Government Accountability Project are offered in the evening this semester and did not participate in the day clinic orientation). A primary goal was to create a common set of values and a culture across our clinics. Another goal was to set the stage for conversations that would continue within our individual clinics throughout the semester.

We determined that we would first meet for two hours in our individual clinics and then come together as a group. Fueled by pizza and after a round-robin of introductions to all of our clinical faculty and fellows, ably facilitated by Professor Marcy Karin, who directs the Legislation Clinic and with a welcome from UDC-DCSL Dean Shelley Broderick, we launched into the substance for the four hour afternoon session. Practicing what we preach, we circulated a detailed agenda for students outlining our plan for the afternoon.

First, Professor Lindsay M. Harris, Co-Director of the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic led a session focused on clinical pedagogy. Using text-polling and word cloud technology, we opened up the session with an exercise asking students to share just one word to describe what they had heard, around campus, about the clinic which they were now entering. This ice-breaker served as a Launchpad to consider the goals of clinical education broadly. We shared the concept of “zones of learning and how, in clinic, we aim to work in our “stretch zone.” Students individually mapped out the tasks or skills within their comfort zone, stretch zone, and panic zone.

Next up, Professors Faith Mullen and Tianna Gibbs, Co-Directors of our General Practice Clinic led a discussion on professional responsibility and ethics. All UDC-DCSL students must take Professional Responsibility as either a pre or co-requisite to clinic, but this session served to focus on ethical issues specifically within clinic. Professors Mullen and Gibbs, unphased by an unexpected fire alarm mid-session(!), ably guided our students through key topics including unauthorized practice of law, student practice, file maintenance, attorney client privilege, confidentiality, and more. This primed the students to start to think about their role as student attorneys, we hope, throughout the rest of the semester.

Professor Laurie Morin, who directs the Gender Justice Project and currently teaches within the Legislation Clinic, then led a session on professional communication. During the session, Professor Morin shared with the students tips, strategies, and wisdom, but also carefully connected what they had learned during their first year legal research and writing course to their writing within clinic. Professor Norrinda Brown Hayat, Director of the Housing and Consumer Law Clinic, followed up on this presentation with a hands-on presentation for students on using track changes within Microsoft Word and clarifying our clinic writing portfolio graduation requirement.

Freshly armed with a heightened understanding of Mindfulness in the Law thanks to the two-day conference-within-a-conference at SEALS in August, Professor Harris led a brief meditation followed by an introduction to mindfulness. We learned about the growing traction mindfulness has within law schools, companies, and bar associations, and the potential physical and mental health benefits. We concluded the session by walking through the Jeremy Hunter’s Reactivity Map exercise, essentially considering the value of inserting an extra reflective step in between interpreting a situation and subsequent action as a student attorney.

Our final substantive session was focused on acknowledging professional identity and discussing the concept of feeling “othered” within the legal profession. Professor Hayat, using a thought provoking and contemporary video clip to open the discussion, asked each student in the room to contribute just a one word reaction to what they had seen. Professor Hayat then skillfully set the stage for necessary conversations about race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, and other arenas where personal and professional identity intersect and come into play throughout the semester.

Professor Lauren Onkeles-Klein, Visiting Professor and Director of our Juvenile and Special Education Clinic took on the less-than-desirable task of walking through the nuts and bolts of some key administrative tasks at the end of the day. Through this, students were introduced to key staff and began to develop an understanding of online case management procedures, printing options, interpretation & translation, supplies, copying and mailing documents.

This new collaboration required a great deal of effort by our clinical faculty over the summer, but, we hope that it will sow the seeds for working across clinic and collaborating throughout the semester. We are currently assessing the program and have solicited feedback from student participants in the form of a survey.

We share with the wider clinical community in the hopes of stimulating thought and discussion – do you conduct orientations within your individual clinics? Have your schools tried to provide a broader program, orienting students across clinics? What have been your successes? Your failures? Could this work at your institution, why or why not?

September 5, 2017 in Clinic News, Clinic Profile, New Clinical Programs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Providing Pro Bono Services to Dreamers and Others in the University

This week, at the direction of our university administration, Pepperdine announced several new initiatives to provide focused services on students across the university who are affected by changes and potential changes in immigration law and international travel rules.   These services include projects by the counseling center, chaplain's office, and point people in each of our five schools.

They also include the new Pepperdine Law Immigration Clinic.  This is not a standard, credit-bearing course in the clinical curriculum but is a pilot project with four clinical faculty supervising students who can earn pro bono credit. We are providing advice and counsel under California's limited-scope representation rules.  The representation is limited to basic advice, counsel, and referrals for students with questions and concerns about their visas, residency status, documentation, international travel, and immigration matters. The clients are Pepperdine students who are Dreamers, undocumented immigrants, or international students holding passports from affected nations.  (Here is our announcement to the law school this week.)

The university also funded a retainer for an outside, expert immigration attorney to handle more complex matters for students, short of appearing in adversarial proceedings.  The retained lawyer is one of our former supervising attorneys in the clinics and is one of the leading immigration lawyers in Los Angeles. 

In frustrating times, it has been wonderful to see our university mobilize for its students, to marshal its resources quickly, and gather committed people from across the university ecosystem who are eager and willing to add work their portfolios.  

Several other schools and organizations have been at work on similar projects, and their resources have been invaluable to us as we get up to speed on this work.  Our colleagues in immigration clinics around the country have been generous in sharing insight, materials, and ideas as we get started.

Here are some important and useful resources from our University of California neighbors for which are very grateful:

We Stand With Our Students (an initiative of UCLA profs)

University of California Undocumented Legal Services Center


February 18, 2017 in Clinic News, Clinic Profile, Current Affairs, New Clinical Programs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Columbia Law School to Design and Teach Alternative Dispute Resolution Curriculum With the Educational Arm of the United Nations


Columbia Law School will develop a program to train U.N. diplomats and personnel in negotiation techniques and conflict resolution, under an agreement signed this week by Columbia University and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The partnership grew out of a multi-year effort by Columbia Law School Professor Alexandra Carter ’03 to teach alternative dispute resolution to U.N. diplomats in New York City. Since 2012, Carter—the director of clinical education at the Law School and head of the Mediation Clinic—has led UNITAR’s negotiation workshops for women diplomats.
A champion of mediation as a critical tool in resolving conflicts, Carter envisions a larger and evolving international collaboration between UNITAR and Columbia University. She touts the global concerns and international reach of many of the Law School’s ten clinics, and credits Law School Dean Gillian Lester, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, for making “international engagement a major pillar of her deanship.”
“Columbia Law School’s clinics move global and national policy developments, in addition to serving many individual clients,” said Carter. “Over the last decade, the Mediation Clinic has worked with transnational organizations like the United Nations, as well as foreign governments, federal and state courts, and law schools, to advance the practice of mediation, negotiation, and global peace building.
“The Mediation Clinic will be the focal and contact point for the new curriculum and trainings, though over time we expect to bring together many of our experts from other schools and disciplines. We are starting in New York—with the largest diplomatic corps—but we have already received requests for proposals abroad.”
‘Opportunities for Our Students’
Under the supervision of Carter and Lecturer in Law Shawn Watts ’12, Columbia Law School students in the Mediation Clinic work to resolve a wide range of real-world cases involving commercial, employment, housing, and family disputes. Carter sees great opportunities in the new UNITAR partnership for students who have already studied the basics of negotiation.
“Columbia Law School students will be intimately involved in the design of these training programs, they will assist in the classrooms, and they will have an opportunity for substantive interactions with diplomats and change agents from all over the world,” she said.
In addition to teaching her Law School courses, Carter has taught mediation to private- and public-sector groups, as well as to international academic audiences, and she serves on the Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee for the New York State Unified Court System. In January, Carter and Watts helped conduct the first Peace Summit at Tokyo’s International Christian University, where students, faculty, and diplomats from nine nations studied the policy and practice of mediation and peace building.
In 2012, UNITAR asked the Mediation Clinic to participate in the Women Negotiating Peace conference at the United Nations. Carter’s workshop--a first-of-its-kind training for female delegates—was organized in response to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, which promotes the participation of women in peace building efforts worldwide, noting they are “underrepresented in virtually all” governments.
“We were proud to be part of that first summit,” Carter recalled, “and right from the beginning, we could see the impact on the diplomats and also the incredible opportunities for our students. The U.N. asked us to return because of the tremendous feedback.”
Since then, the workshop has become an annual event, and participants have even come to the Law School for further training, attending the initial “boot camp” weeks of each semester’s Mediation Clinic. Starting in the fall, Carter and Watts will teach an Advanced Mediation Clinic, “in large part because of the U.N. partnership and all the substantive work we know it will generate for our students,” Carter said.
At this week’s signing of the Law School’s agreement with UNITAR, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Nikhil Seth stressed the importance of gender equality.  “He came up with an idea to hold training programs for women before the General Assembly and all other major U.N. meetings,” Carter said, “so that female diplomats feel equipped and empowered to enter the U.N.’s biggest arenas and advocate for themselves and their missions.”
In a statement released after this week’s meeting at Columbia Law School, UNITAR called the collaboration “crucial to equip members of this community with the capacity to navigate and contribute to the United Nations.”
Partnership with UNITAR
UNITAR was established in 1965 "for the purpose of enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations.'' It provides short-term executive training to officials of member states as well as to representatives of civil society and the private sector. It works with an estimated 25,000 people around the world each year, through seminars and workshops, e-learning, and special events.
When Carter met earlier this year with the head of UNITAR’s New York office, Ambassador Marco Suazo, they came up with the same question: “Why are we talking about isolated programs when we could be talking about something so much greater?” remembered Carter. “We should be exploring everything that Columbia Law School and Columbia University bring to bear, in terms of teaching, intellectual leadership, and the ability to design a curriculum that will marry conflict resolution—which is a skill that cuts across all disciplines—with the U.N.’s 2030 agenda and its sustainable development goals. These goals include gender equality, eradicating poverty, access to justice, making sustainable cities, creating just institutions and protecting our environment.”
The agenda’s social justice goals align with the mission of the Columbia Law School clinics, which handle cases in such subject areas as international human rights, environmental law, community enterprise, and immigrants’ rights.
“Our clinics were founded to increase access to justice and to solve legal and social problems, to be a voice for those who need one, and to empower individuals, whether they live in New York City or Papua New Guinea, to access their rights and solve their own problems,” Carter said. “This partnership is a tremendous fit for our program.”
The New York diplomatic corps represents a wide variety of nations, from the world’s most- to least-developed states. Workshop participants will receive signed certificates of attendance from Columbia Law School and Columbia University, Carter notes, and the U.N. has expressed a desire to work toward a more formal credential, such as a certificate in conflict resolution and diplomacy.
“Our goal, over the next year and beyond, is to design and execute trainings that will reach hundreds of diplomats, and to combine our expertise in conflict resolution with substantive legal knowledge that will benefit all nations and all peoples,” Carter said.

October 15, 2016 in Clinic News, Clinic Profile, Clinic Students and Graduates, Clinic Victories | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Guide for Public Defender Law Clerks in Veterans Court and Veterans Sentencing Programs

Over recent semesters, the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office and Pepperdine University School of Law have been developing the Veterans Law Practicum.  In the Practicum, upper-level law students from Pepperdine work with the Public Defender to represent clients in Veterans Treatment Court. Vet Court is part of the Collaborative Court Program of the Ventura County Superior Court.  Pepperdine law students work in a rich, immersive experience alongside expert attorneys to improve and expand restorative justice for veterans. 

I have rarely seen a field placement as committed, organized and expert in the supervision of law students while ensuring that their work is effective and useful for clients.

Chief Deputy Rod Kodman, other attorneys at the Public Defender’s Office, and Pepperdine law students have prepared the attached guide for Public Defender Law Clerks in Veterans Court and Veterans Sentencing Programs. This is a detailed kit with standard operating procedures, forms and guidelines for students in the practicum.  The Ventura Public Defender has been generous to share this material with defenders throughout California, and we are making it available nationally through several communities committed to veterans’ services. 

From the Introduction:

This guide is designed to assist other jurisdictions in making optimum use of Public Defender law clerks as part of programs that give effect to veterans sentencing statutes, including Veterans Courts. The goal of such programs is to establish a secure pathway for veterans to restorative, alternative sentencing, which greatly increases access to justice for vulnerable veterans. The Ventura County Veterans Court is a collaborative effort, but other jurisdictions can implement the practices outlined here as part of a more adversarial process. Also, this guide refers throughout to the activities of “law clerks.” Other jurisdictions may wish to assign some of these roles to social workers, paralegals, sentencing mitigation specialists, or other professionals. In doing so, they should be careful to follow all applicable rules regarding the unauthorized practice of law.

The guide informs students’ work at arraignment, in the defenders’ office, at the Vet Court team meeting, before and in court, then in the delivery of legal or other benefits to clients. 

Download Vet Law Practicum. Ventura PD. SOP final (5.31.16)

We hope these materials can be helpful, and we welcome questions, suggestions and ideas to make them better.

May 31, 2016 in Clinic Profile, Criminal Defense, New Clinical Programs, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Death of a Clinic

On January 1, 2015, there was one fewer law school clinic in America. The Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic, one of the oldest and most well-respected clinics in the Northwest, silently closed its doors.

The Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic provided debtor-creditor, landlord-tenant, and family law services, including a significant amount of work representing victims of domestic violence. The clinic was founded in 1971, and together its full-time faculty, Dick Slottee, Teresa Wright, and Mark Peterson had spent approximately fifty years combined at Lewis & Clark. All had security of position; in fact, Professor Slottee, who was the clinic director, had tenure. The clinic served approximately 230 low-income and indigent clients per year and involved 35 to 70 students.

As recently as last summer, Lewis & Clark Law School touted the clinic’s work in Advocate Magazine. In the words of one recent Lewis & Clark alumna, “The value derived from the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic is immeasurable. It teaches practical skills and it provides students a special opportunity to put the legal theories we learn in an abstract manner in the classroom into practice . . . The focus is on the students and the students are wholly supported.”

According to the Lewis & Clark Law School Dean, Jennifer Johnson, the decision to close the clinic was driven by budget constraints. She indicated that the goal was to offer lawyering skills and opportunities “for all students in a cost effective manner” and stated that “Going forward, we must focus our in-house clinics on those with significant fund raising potential,” while asserting that “current budget realities-for both the law school and our students-make this move necessary.” The rumor is that Lewis & Clark had an unexpected million-dollar shortfall and had already significantly cut the library budget (the largest budget item other than personnel), and so moved to the next largest item in the budget: the law school’s clinic. True or not, Johnson’s own framing of the decision exclusively as a financial one is worrisome.

In Pricing Clinical Legal Education, 92 Denver University Law Review 1 (2014), Robert Kuehn of Washington University Law finds that offering clinical opportunities to law school students has no net impact on tuition and concludes that offering clinical opportunities to students is determined by the law school’s will to offer such opportunities to students. As law schools consider how to balance the budget and keep the lights on during the worst downturn in law school enrollment in modern history, it is natural that some administrators may be tempted to conduct a casual analysis and conclude that high enrollment courses are the answer and try to cut costs by reducing smaller experiential courses.

However, a familiarity with effective pedagogies and the retention yields of various methods reveals that not all courses are equal when it comes to learning outcomes. The value of courses and teaching methods should not be measured predominantly by teaching or staffing inputs, but rather by learning efficiencies, efficacies, and outcomes. After all, if we hold ourselves out as educators, we owe it to our students to have a reasonable familiarity with effective educational methods and to utilize and prioritize those, rather than continue to offer course and curricula designs that have been scientifically proven by study after study to be ineffective. 

Accepting tuition in exchange for enrollment in courses designed around learning methods that have been scientifically proven to be ineffective is unconscionable. Those simulated practice courses, externships, and clinics may cost more than placing 80 students in the room with a single lecturer, but they are far more likely to produce better learning outcomes for our students. Can you imagine a law school committed to designing and offering courses according to learning outcomes rather than cost input?

Even if one is not motivated by effective pedagogy, from a business perspective, we know that students care about clinics. A recent survey indicates that clinics and externships are one of the most significant factors students consider when deciding where to attend law school (location is number one).

After the decision to close the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic was announced in September, another faculty member, Kathy Hessler, sent an email to the national clinic listserv informing the members of our community. She pointed out that the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic was the only one at the law school that was funded directly by the law school. It is hard to imagine other law school courses being expected to go out and procure their own funding.

When one considers the effectiveness of clinical pedagogy, as well as the new ABA accreditation standards mandating experiential education, it is deeply concerning that an educational program built around one of the most effective learning methods known to us would be singled out to be "self funded."

Even more concerning, though, was the resounding silence of the national clinical community to the news of the decision. Just a handful of emails were sent in response. At the Northwest Clinical Conference in October, attendees voted to send a letter to the Lewis & Clark Dean expressing our deep concern over the decision and offering our support to reverse the decision. In response, Dean Johnson emailed each signatory and the dean of the person’s home law school, and directed them to have our dean contact her if we would like “further input into this issue.” Was she trying to intimidate us into silence with this power play? Perhaps, but apparently, there was no need. I have said nothing since. Have you?

This is the way a clinic ends. This is the way a clinic ends. This is the way a clinic ends. Not with a bang, but with silence.


January 11, 2015 in ABA Standards, Clinic News, Clinic Profile, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Case Rounds: Lessons from Launching a New Clinic at Pepperdine

This year at Pepperdine we launched the new Community Justice Clinic.  I teach and supervise the course, and it has been a unique moment in my career, to have the opportunity to design and launch a clinic completely from scratch.   In my previous work at Faulkner Law in Montgomery, my first clinical teaching position after leaving practice, I inherited a domestic violence clinic and received a charge to start an elder law clinic with a large grant.  This is my second year at Pepperdine where I have enjoyed the rare chance to start a new clinic from a blank slate.   We have been able to test some philosophical ideas about clinical curriculum, pedagogy and design, and I am learning much.

Please indulge a long post about my reflections, life-long learning and professional formation.  This is what we are about, after all.     


With the opportunity to start a new clinic, I was tempted to replicate what I knew how to do, namely a domestic violence or elder law clinic, or another litigation based, individual representation clinic.  There is, after all, something to be said for expertise.   I have been a civil litigator in one form or another since graduating, and my field of inquiry, scholarship and activism has become domestic violence, feminism and family law.   It would make sense for me to continue it, although I had become somewhat burned out and stagnated after seven years seeking civil protection orders and had lost my imagination about how such a clinic can look.

Instead, we started with curriculum and pedagogy and attempted to bend our practice to those needs.  The clinical faculty, academic dean, curriculum committee and I looked at our current offerings to identify practice areas that we were not meeting.  We had seven clinics in the School of Law, three for the regular JD program and three housed in the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.   All of them are essentially litigation based and involve individuals as clients.  The Legal Aid clinic is a general, poverty law clinic on Skid Row and handles family law, housing, consumer protection, tax and criminal expungement matters in a neighborhood with the highest concentration of homelessness in the country.  The Special Ed clinic is a civil rights litigation clinic that represents families of children with disabilities in litigation against public schools to ensure compliance with federal civil rights laws.   The Ninth Circuit clinic handles court-appointed appeals for indigent clients, typically with §1983 claims. In the Mediation Clinic, students work as mediators in small claims court between pro se litigants.  In the Fair Employment & Housing Mediation Clinic, students work with mediator attorneys in the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to mediate employment discrimination cases.   In the Investor Advocacy Clinic, students represent investors as complainants in FINRA arbitrations.      

(We wound up our Asylum & Refugee Clinic last year when its soft-money expired without a plan to sustain it through tighter budgetary times.  This hard episode is full of its own lessons, worthy of a long post, about financing, faculty status, staffing structures and institutional preparation.) 

We had plenty of good ideas for clinics that would involve litigation, and litigation is my background.  Instead of replicating that style of practice, though, we considered what we were missing.  We were missing transactional, tax, regulatory, entrepreneurship, policy advocacy and a host of other practice areas and styles of lawyering.   Since I would be the teacher, however, and since expertise does count for something, I would not commit to areas of practice where I am weak, inexperienced or uninterested.   I won’t confess here where I will not dare to tread, but will explain where we landed. 

We wanted students to have an opportunity to represent organizations, so they can encounter the complex dynamics of client identification, of competing client voices, of conflicting loyalties, and of building sustainable institutions.    We wanted to provide opportunities for corporate law practice, and we built in the possibility for policy advocacy in various forms. 

We have two other pertinent forces in potential conflict.  While Malibu is beautiful, it is a relatively isolated community in the most populous county in the country, and we wanted to make the clinic’s practice as convenient and accessible to students as possible.   Having the clinic on campus, however, means doing public interest and social justice work inside a gated community inside one of the most affluent towns in the world.   We do not want to carpet-bag a poor community with a colonial law practice from our seaside enclave but to be smart, compassionate and humble lawyers seeking to empower our clients.   

The Clinic

Through this process emerged the Community Justice Clinic.  In the CJC, we represent nonprofits, NGOs, community and religious organizations who are committed to justice and development work among vulnerable communities.  We provide corporate legal services, like formation, governance and compliance matters, and we provide policy advocacy services for clients in pursuit of their causes.   

(As aside, since this is a new area of practice and style of clinic for me, I sought some expert advice, primarily by volunteering to serve as a leader/facilitator for the Community Economic Development working group at the 2014 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education, full of expert practitioners and teachers in CED who represent nonprofits and community organizations.   I admitted to them that I was a novice and hoped that being in the group would be useful, and they were completely generous and wise.    I am grateful to this community that is new to me, and the sessions with them were immensely valuable in making early choices about the clinic’s design and practice.)  

In client selection, we favor organizations with annual budgets of less than $1 million.  We strongly favor clients who are committed to be part of the communities they serve, either by being led or organized by members of the community or by a demonstrable, long-term presence in the community.   Our clients must be devoted primarily to seeking social, economic and environmental justice in their communities.  

In practice, after front-loaded teaching on the law of nonprofits, ethics and professional responsibility, client interviewing and communication, and case evaluation, the students are primarily responsible for initial client interviews, engagement, case evaluation, investigation, research, advice and counsel, writing legally operative documents, and implementation with the clients.    

So far, our clients include a shelter and housing project for homeless people on Skid Row and elsewhere in L.A., and we are working on a project to ensure compassionate care for senior residents with declining capacity when independent living becomes untenable.    We represent a start-up nonprofit organizing to provide arts education and job training to teens in impoverished communities of rural farm workers.   We represent a community labor exchange that works to provide humane, fair and safe work for day-laborers.  We represent an NGO in India who provides legal services to victims of sexual violence, and we are providing research to support law reform initiatives in New Delhi.    We represent an American nonprofit with a related African NGO that has been present for almost two decades promoting women’s economic empowerment, community organizing, sanitation and accessible water to people in east Africa.  We are working to ensure that its corporate structure and practice across several initiatives is compliant and sustainable.    The clients are extraordinary, and the work is complex and fascinating.  

Lessons in Progress

So far, the CJC seems successful.  The students are engaged, and the clients are pleased.   We continue to identify new clients and are currently in discussions with a community agriculture project that is providing models of sustainable, local and organic farming and advocating for humane, just and empowering practices for California farm workers.   

As a teacher, I am learning new ways to calibrate student work and the pace of the class.   This is not new to clinical education; it is endemic to all programs committed to good pedagogy.  These particular challenges are new to me after having run clinics with discrete, limited scopes of representation where I could control volume and matters to fit a semester.   I am learning now how to manage student load and projects for a 3 unit, semester long clinic with clients and matters that require slower, longer and more strategic work.   We are considering adjustment to enrollment limits, academic credit and matter selection.  

I am learning lessons about balancing projects and clients, to serve them well but to avoid having one client or project dominate the clinic’s practice.  Some clients have complex business that could preoccupy us all.  Some clients have solid potential projects but do not communicate with the students.  Some clients have projects that are critical and important but that are not complex but are repetitious and time-consuming.   I do not yet have an expert’s grasp of measuring a client’s matter at the outset so have had to adjust assignments and expectations on the fly.   At the beginning of the semester, I told the students that part of their experience would be learning with me how this practice would work and that they would have a critical role in establishing our practices and policies.  They have taken to the work.  

We are considering future plans for the clinical program at the School of Law and are evaluating potential plans through a similar process.   We are assessing gaps in the curriculum, especially practice areas and styles of lawyering that we presently do not offer, student interests and demand, community needs, faculty talent and calling, and the unique demands of our market and neighborhood.    Instead of being driven by available soft-money, popular trends, or the faculty’s boutique interests, we want to build a program that offers comprehensive pedagogical offerings for students that also fulfill our missions of justice in the world.    The greatest problem before us now is narrowing the list of worthy and righteous ideas and counting the opportunity costs of choosing a path.  

I have learned that I need not adhere to a single form of clinical practice, but I have also learned to ensure that the clinic receives full, sustainable support from the law school.   I have learned again the virtues of bending the practice to the pedagogy but learn also that this will necessarily limit the scope of our practice and our ambitions for clients.   I have learned that for every choice we make, we are bound to disappoint someone, maybe even ourselves, by excluding another potential path.  We must build a coherent, integrated program with a cohesive narrative to guide us through the dilemma of choosing from many good options.   We will never finish the work of justice or education, but we cannot wait for the ability to do everything all at once.   


I confess to having become too committed to a single vision of clinical teaching in my earlier years directing a program.   At a larger school in a far larger market, we must develop as many opportunities as possible without sacrificing quality and rigor and without undermining generations of advances in the clinical movement.   In addition to traditional clinics, like the CJC, and traditional externships, which we handle by the hundreds, I have had to become comfortable with hybrid forms.  

At Pepperdine, we call these courses practicums, and we have learned in fits and starts about how to design and launch them.  So far, we have found success with two practicums in particular.  Practicums have been our best option for providing options, beyond externships, for students interested in criminal justice. 

First is our Criminal Justice Dispute Resolution Practicum.   In the practicum, students learn conflict resolution and peacemaking methods then accompany the teacher for a semester into the L.A. County Jail to help teach these skills and virtues to inmates, in hopes of improving the inmates’ experiences in jail then to empower them once they are free.  The students learn cultural competence and compassion, gain insight from people bound by the criminal justice system, witness life in incarceration, and participate in creative, restorative justice. 

Second is our Federal Criminal Practice Practicum, the idea of an alum who is a U.S. District Judge.   At her initiative and guidance, we created a course where students rotate in a semester through the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Public Defenders’ office and the judge’s chambers on the U.S. District Court.    The students produce substantive written work at each stop and can compare and contrast the culture, values, roles and responsibilities of every side of federal criminal practice.  

We have had one practicum that did not fare well.  In collaboration with a government agency, we worked to create opportunities for students to represent aggrieved tax payers in administrative appeals.  Conceptually the work was good, but the practice for the students was not sustainable.  They were too distant from clients.  The cases were either too far advanced or were too basic, and the process was too byzantine to generate steady, useful teaching cases for a regular rotation of students with a part-time teacher.   The internal practices of the agency could not accommodate sufficient supervision or flexibility, so we closed the project after a term, with good will toward our collaborators.  

Without immediate resources to launch fully fledged and staffed clinics for every practice area, practicums have become a nimble form through which we can leverage creative ideas for sound courses.  We have not had universal success with all of our projects, but we see a way to expand and improve our offerings into important practice areas.              

The Road Goes Ever On and On

We have adopted California’s new bar admission requirements as graduation requirements.  With this first year class, students must provide 50 hours of pro bono service during law school, and they must take 15 units of professional skills courses.    While the bar’s rules are still pending, we expect that students can earn dual-credit for both new requirements in clinics, practicums and qualifying externships.    Thus, it becomes imperative that we establish sufficient opportunities for our students to satisfy these requirements well and with rigorous teaching and learning.    These challenges are not peculiar to Pepperdine, but every school necessarily must assess its own context, resources and values.   Since I joined the faculty last year, these are among the lessons we have learned in the perpetually evolving landscape of our work.  

October 24, 2014 in Clinic Profile, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Professor Sarah Deer Is a MacArthur Fellow!

I admit that the one email I dread every September is the announcement of the MacArthur Fellows --nothing like feeling totally inadequate three weeks into the new school year by reading about the exceptional accomplishments of this extraordinarily creative and hardworking group of individuals.  I personally much prefer the announcement of the Darwin Awards. 

But this year when I saw the dreaded email from the MacArthur Foundation, I quickly noted that the clinical community’s own Sarah Deer has been selected!  Professor Deer is on the faculty of William Mitchell College of Law and is co-director of their Indian Law Clinic.  She is a tireless advocate who has been instrumental in developing legal protections for Native American victims of domestic violence.  A description of Professor Deer’s work can be found here.  A full list of this year’s MacArthur Fellows can be found here.  Congratulations, Professor Deer, on a truly extraordinary and well-earned distinction!        

September 16, 2014 in Clinic News, Clinic Profile, Current Affairs, Domestic Violence, Faculty Profile, Family Law, Job Opportunities & Fellowships, Promotions, Honors & Awards | Permalink | Comments (0)