Monday, November 18, 2013

Field Notes on Starting a Law School Clinic by Miller

Two years ago I moved from San Francisco to Boise, Idaho to start life as an academic with a tenure-track position that included both doctrinal teaching and starting a new Economic Development Clinic at the University of Idaho College of Law's new Boise campus.  I found the experience to be one of the most challenging, and rewarding, of my professional career.  In so doing, I also found that there was precious little out there that talked about the experience of starting a law school clinic.  To try and fill this void for future professors new to the academy, I recently wrote Field Notes from Starting a Law School Clinic, which will be published in 2014 by the Clinical Law Review.  The abstract:

The goal of this article is to provide guidance for clinicians starting new law school clinics through “field notes” of the author’s experience starting a new Economic Development Clinic. Using personal experience as a reference point by which to discuss the new clinician’s experience generally, the article first discusses the role of clinicians in the contemporary legal academy. Second, the article discusses how to find and choose clinic clients, which is arguably the most difficult part of starting a clinic. This section also offers a digression on framing community and economic development clinics, which the author argues also provides a valuable test case for contemplating client selection in all subject clinics. Third, the article addresses non-client serving components of new clinics, such as class structure, readings, writings, and the like. Fourth, the article addresses the client-serving component of new clinics, including a number of logistical issues in running a clinic that are often a surprise to new clinicians. This section also discusses grading clinics. Fifth, the article addresses publicizing a new clinic. Sixth, the article addresses student recruitment for new clinics. Seventh, the article concludes by discussing ways new clinicians can get to know the legal clinic professorial community.

This article makes no pretense of providing everything a new clinician needs to know.  It is necessarily limited by my own experience, but also, hopefully, enriched by it.  I hope that other new clinicians--and perhaps even new doctrinal professors--will consider taking the time to reflect upon their beginnings for the benefit of others that will soon walk that same path. 

The article is still in its final revisions, and I would welcome any comments on how to make it better or more useful to those starting a new law clinic.

Stephen R. Miller

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