Thursday, May 9, 2019

Notes from the AALS Clinical Conference

Guest Blogger: Liz Keyes, University of Baltimore

More than 700 clinicians gathered in San Francisco earlier this week at the AALS Annual Clinical Conference, and immigration shone front and center in so many ways.

Recognizing Extraordinary Advocacy: Sarah Rogerson

First, the incomparable Sarah Rogerson, director of the Immigration Law Clinic at Albany Law School, won the 2019 M. Shanara Gilbert award, one of the most prestigious recognitions the clinical community gives (Sue Bryant writes beautifully about Professor Gilert, and the award, here).  Sarah won for many reasons, but one of the most immediate was her creation and leadership of a network to rapidly respond to family separation in New York State. With her expertise, her tenacity, and a huge well of good will to draw from after many years of working with partners in New York and beyond, Sarah summoned partners ranging from other law schools to the Albany County Sheriff to serve hundreds of affected immigrants in the summer of 2018—emphasis on summer, not a time of year clinicians can easily access law students to amplify our efforts.

In Sarah’s acceptance speech, she shared credit with those other clinicians, and brought the chatty, noisy, large room to a hushed stillness when she shared her meditation on the phrase dum spiro spero,* While I breathe, I hope.

Sarah Rogerson

While I Breathe, I Hope: Immigration Clinicians in Polarized Times

Sarah’s meditation manifested itself in the Immigration Clinician gatherings during the conference, in working groups, and in concurrent sessions. As always, the groups reminded us of our shared fights and our shared victories. There was plenty of gallows humor, and also recognition of the many ways that we do keep breathing and hoping. There is a resilience to this community that is deep and inspiring. We discussed the extra challenges our colleagues in under-resourced areas like Louisiana face in handling all the demands created by the injustices that seem to only get larger by the day. We offered concrete suggestions for networks that could help with specific issues or tools. We recognized the clinicians doing great policy and litigation work on important issues that are in the news, and also appreciated the slower, steadier value of teaching our students to be excellent lawyers as they step into the work for themselves. In these times, it can be hard to summon the strength to go back into the ring for another round of fights, and yet we do—because while we breathe, we hope.

Mujeres Unidas y Activas

The Clinical Legal Education Association Per Diem Project always designates an organization in our host city to receive funds from the attendees’ per diems. This year, CLEA raised over $5,000 for Mujeres Unidas y Activas, a San Francisco organization supporting Latina immigrant empowerment and organizing. Maria Jesus de Jimenez spoke of how this group grew from a handful of participants to several hundred women who go on to do trainings, outreach, run support groups, and advocate for justice. Ms. Flores spoke about the host of interconnected issues that affect immigrant women, and provided a powerful example of women’s agency in responding to those injustices.

Immigration Professors Taking Center Stage

Many of the concurrents featured immprofers, as well. The list below captures most of what we collectively did (preemptive apologies to anyone inadvertently left off this list).

Pedagogy and Clinic Design

  • Saba Ahmed (UDC), Anne Schaufele (American), and Susannah Volpe (Seton Hall), with the arguably best named concurrent session: I Just Met You, And This is Crazy, But Here’s My Number, So Call Me Maybe: Developing Student Attorney-Client Relationships and Communication from Afar
  • Cori Alonso-Yoder (American) and Jayesh Rathod (American): Lawyer as Truth Teller? Narrative and Fact Investigation in the Shadow of Alternative Facts
  • Sameer M. Ashar (UCLA) and Deborah Archer (NYU), Moving Beyond the Traditional Big Case versus Small Case Debate: Embracing Opportunities to Engage Students in Transformational Advocacy
  • Caitlin Barry (Villanova) and Chris Lasch (Denver), Cultivating Empathy as a Crucial Lawyering Skill
  • Gillian Chadwick (Washburn), Forging Clinic Collaborations with Non-Legal Partners: How Working Alongside Non-Lawyers Advances Student Learning
  • Valeria Gomez (U Conn) and Karla McKanders (Vanderbilt), Red–Bottom Shoe Activism: Privilege, Power, and Pedagogy
  • Hemanth Gundavaram (Northeastern) and Emily Robinson (Loyola LA), Prioritizing Learning Outcomes Using Deliberate Immigration Clinic Design
  • Jean Han (American), Healing and Reconciliation: The Clinic’s Role in Re-Imagining Power and Fostering Dignity in a Time of Polarization
  • Lindsay Harris (UDC), Erica Schommer (St. Mary’s), Sarah Sherman-Stokes (BU), Cindy Zapata (Harvard), Learning in Baby Jail: Lessons from Law Student Engagement in Immigration Detention Centers
  • Luz E. Herrera (Texas A&M), Annie Lai (UC Irvine), Access to Law and Justice
  • Liz Keyes (Baltimore), Meeting at the Intersection of Scholarship and Clinical Practice
  • Hiroko Kusuda (Loyola NoLa) and Michael Vastine (St. Thomas FL), Quickly! Society has Lost its Filter, Should We Teach with One?
  • Jennifer Lee (Temple) and Ragini Shah (Suffolk), Teaching About Racial and Economic Justice in the Age of Trump
  • Vanessa Merton (Pace), Will Bar Admission Standards Promote Adequate Legal Education in Practice Skills, Professionalism and Values for Tomorrow’s Lawyers? Lessons from New York
  • Nickole Miller (Baltimore), Helena Montes (Loyola LA), Emily Torstveit Ngara (Hofstra), Gumming Up the Wheels of Injustice
  • Christine Natoli (Hastings) and Elissa C Steglich (Texas), The Learning Legal Interviewing & Language Access Film Project
  • Sarah H. Paoletti (Penn) Teaching Law Students to Address Issues of Race and Privilege as Part of Professional Competence
  • Michele R. Pistone (Villanova) Using Clinic Case Management Database Systems to Support Access to Justice and Individual Student Learning Outcomes
  • Anita Sinha (American), Direct Client Services and Law Reform – Clinics Tackling Two Big Jobs


  • Julie Dahlstrom (Boston University)
  • Danielle Jefferis (Denver)
  • Danielle Kalil (Michigan)
  • Becky Sharpless (Miami)

And finally, a shout-out to our fearless cat-herding immigration working group leaders:

  • Debbie Gonzalez (Roger Williams)
  • Mary Holper (BC)
  • Carmen Maria Rey (Brooklyn)
  • Linda Tam (UC Irvine)

* Sarah self-deprecatingly noted she does not usually meditate on Latin phrases. However, this guest-blogger notes that she reads political philosophy for fun, and perhaps Professor Rogerson is being an unreliable witness.

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