Clinical Education in Tumultuous times

Having recently returned from the AALS Clinical Conference, which was focused on engaging in clinical legal education during tumultuous times, I’ve had a thought percolating, one about which there was little occasion to address during the conference:  how do we manage, balance, and relate our own personal political activities “in these times” vis a vis our students?

Do we inform our students of our “after hours” activities? Invite them to join us? Encourage them to engage in their own, if they can find the extra time, given their studies and case work? Encourage them to find the time?

Or would this be a mistake? Might this type of encouragement alienate our students who don’t agree with our own political views and accompanying activity, making those students uncomfortable in the clinic we operate?

How have the rest of you out there been handling this?

3 Responses

  1. Our clinical faculty are holding meetings to discuss ways to use either cases we have (we had a Black Lives Matters case that has just resolved, and there are other good cases that will come up), or to somewhat change the mix we have had and use more seminars to discuss the ways lawyers can use courts, legislatures, public, etc to either resist, advocate, and/or educate. And while to a considerable degree we can keep it less political and more focused on the work a lawyer can do for a client, we are just starting on the project and there are lots of questions we need to work out. So any help that any of you can provide us would be greatly appreciated. Jim

  2. Jim, That seems like a great project; how are you determining what are “good cases” to use? Are the students going to be involved in those decisions?

    • IF we go forward with this (still to be determined) we would involve the students who are in clinic at the time in evaluating case, and would consider their input on whether to take the case or not. We do this already on general cases. We make the final decision of cases to take based on criteria such as who we have available to do the work, timing, how much the students can learn, how traumatic or confusing the case might be, and other considerations.

      we get cases a number of ways: a few walk-ins, but mostly referrals from other legal service agencies, from the Courts, from other lawyers, or professionals. If we go into the “movement lawyering” aspect we will try to tap into that network for leads.

      And upon reviewing the original post, I just read the second paragraph a different way than before. We do not involve our personal lives or advocacy interests with the students. We do conduct regular case rounds at which we talk about questions of lawyering (as opposed to law), and how we survive as a lawyer with all of the stress and complexity. I expect that some of the students can read the obvious and may choose not to discuss their political point of view, although when I can I try to draw out different views. To date it has not been a problem, although I suppose given the polarizing that it will crop up at some point.


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