Cultural Knowledge, Intercultural Communication and Self Awareness

I have posted several blogs about ideas involving intercultural communication, cultural knowlege and self awareness.    At the risk of engaging in shameless self-promotion, I would like to announce that my article on these issues just came out as part of the Wash U. Symposium on “Emerging Directions in Clinical Legal Education” ( I know many call these ideas “cultural competence”, but if you read my article you will know why I eschew that terminology…) Continue reading

Bar Passage and Best Practices for Legal Education

My colleague Alfred Mathewson always makes me think.  He came back from the American Bar Association  Bar Exam Passage conference last week.  He had attended the Crossroads conference at the University of Washington too.  He had some interesting observations.  He said there were several schools that were creating “tracks” for students in the lower end of the class rank to focus them very specifically on legal analysis skills.  Continue reading

Passion, Context Redux (Part 2)

As I noted in my last post, one of the fun aspects of getting a few gray hairs is that we sometimes are around long enough to see a few of our ideas come to fruition. Continue reading

The Policies Not the People: Intercultural Relations

In Ireland recently, my family and I went on a tour with Denis Ryan, a Celtic folk musician, historian and tour guide.  He took us on an anthropological tour of the Dingle Peninsula.  We showed us the Ogham stones, Dun Beag, a fort built in 500 B.C., beehive huts in Faran, the Reasc Stone, the Gallarus Oratory, Ventry Castle and Fitzgerald Castle.  A good part of the tour demonstrates Continue reading

Going Publico on Faculty Pro Bono

In October 1999, the AALS Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities issued its report Learning to Serve.  The Commission strongly emphasized the importance of faculty pro bono: 

“…active faculty participation in pro bono work is highly important for the sake of their students.  Law teachers teach as much about professional responsibility by what they do as by what they say.  If our conduct and actions are inconsistent with the principles and rules that we teach, we undermine both our credibility as teachers and the legitimacy of the ethical principles and rules themselves.”  

The Commission recommended “that all law schools adopt a formal policy to encourage and support faculty members to perform pro bono work.”  Unfortunately, nearly ten years later, few law schools have acted on this recommendation.

The Commission recommended six elements be included in pro bono policies:   Continue reading

Public Service and Professional Identity

Here at the University of Washington Law School, we’re just entering our third year of the Gates Public Service Program. In addition to providing five fullride scholarships with funding for summer jobs and a range of other support, the program provides public service programming for the entire student body. Continue reading

Student Motivation and Cultural Context, Self Awareness and Intercultural Communication

I have been gratified about the positive reaction I have received to my posts on cultural issues.  I have received several lovely emails and requests about my article coming out in the Wash. U. Journal of Law and Social Policy.  It should be out this fall.  Meanwhile, here is an excerpt about the power of clinical legal education in enhancing student learning about these issues.  As always, I welcome comments and suggestions! Continue reading

More on Cultural Knowledge, Self-awareness and Intercultural Communication

Over the last 18 years I have come to the beautiful, Spanish colonial town of  Guanajuato, Mexico to teach in the Guanajuato Summer Law Institute fairly regularly.  For the last three years, I have directed the program.  Each time I come, I make more Mexican friends and I learn more about the Mexican culture (both in the anthropological sense and in the “difference” sense).  Many people assume because I am a Latina and speak Spanish that I am familiar with the culture and can communicate effectively.  While I agree that is it a tremendous advantage to speak Spanish, it is certainly not all you need to be effective in communicating and understanding Mexican people in their cultural context.  And, as a Latina raised in the United States whose family roots go back to the Tome Spanish land grant in New Mexico, I certainly have had a great deal to learn about Mexican people and their culture!  In my last post on this issue, I talked about using insights from best practices to develop teaching objectives in cultural knowledge, self awareness and intercultural communication.  Today, my post will focus on cultural knowledge and self awareness using insights from living in Mexico. Continue reading

Intercultural Communication, Cultural Knowledge and Self-Awareness

Several of the sessions at the recent AALS clinical conference in Tucson raised issues that involve what many call cultural competence. (EXCELLENT CONFERENCE, by the way). All agreed that these issues are very difficult to address. I have an article coming out in the Wash. U. Journal of Law and Policy this fall that grows out of the many years we have tried to teach about these issues at the University of New Mexico. Because our faculty, student body and client base in the clinic is so diverse, our differences become very obvious. Continue reading

International Conference on the Future of Legal Education: Update and Report

The International Conference on the Future of Legal Education was held recently, Feb. 20-23, and it was the most comprehensive look to date concerning new initiatives in legal education around the world.  The materials from the conference are available at, and this post will briefly mention just a few of the highlights.  Continue reading

Save the Date: Best Practices Conference at U of Washington

The University of Washington School of Law has agreed to host a Conference addressing efforts to implement the insights from Best Practices and Educating Lawyers: Legal Education at the Crossroads: Ideas to Accomplishments to be held September 5-7, 2008.  Continue reading

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Empiricist Needed

The current misguided efforts by the Department of Education to pressure the ABA to create accreditation standards that more firmly establish bar exam pass rates as the measure of the quality of a law school (by changing Standard 301-6) inspire me to suggest a study.  Let’s take a sample set of people who scored very well on the LSAT, say the entering class of Yale (or your favorite elite law school), give them bar review materials and a week to cram, and then administer the multistate bar exam.  I’m guessing that many, if not most would pass, without the inconvenience of law school…  Perhaps this is the next logical step, moving from licensing lawyers who have never met a client to licensing lawyers who have never met a law professor…  Or maybe I should have saved this idea for a Worst Practices blog…..

Assessing for Justice with SALT

The Bar Exam Committee of SALT (Society of American Law Teachers) is working to address many of the problems with current licensing practices that are described and decried in Chapter One of Best Practices (“The Licensing Process is Not Protecting the Public” at pp. 11-15).  SALT’s perspective is that access to the profession has been captured by an interlocking system of the LSAT, conventional law school grading, and bar exams.  These mutually reinforcing assessment tools operate as a terrible bar to the profession, disproportionately keeping out people of color, while failing to adequately test minimal competency to practice law.  Inspired to action by this critique, SALT’s Bar Exam Committee has engaged in many projects in the past few years, including:    Continue reading

Promoting Diversity

Paul Holland and I were the luncheon speakers on Leading Change in Legal Education: The Carnegie Study, Educating Lawyers and the book by Roy Stuckey, Best Practices in Legal Education at the Seattle University / SALT Deanship workshop, “ Promoting Diversity in Deanships”, September 28, 2007. (EXCELLENT conference, by the way) Since the conference was focused on increasing the number of deans of color in the legal academy, I tried to answer the question of why a dean, and particularly, a dean of color, should care about the ideas in both book as an issue relevant to minority law students. Here are some thoughts. Continue reading

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