Creating Brave Spaces Throughout the Semester

On May 1st from 11:00am – 11:45am, Sherley Cruz (UTK) , Jamie Langowski (Suffolk), Catherine LaRaia (Suffolk), Caryn Mitchell-Munevar (New England), and Kelly Vieira (Suffolk) will present Implicit Bias 201: Strategies for Incorporating Implicit Bias Throughout a Course at the 2021 AALS Clinical Conference.  

As clinicians, we are intentional about incorporating discussions regarding implicit bias at orientation and within cross-cultural communication discussions. But, how many of us intentionally carve out spaces throughout the semester to discuss implicit bias or consistently create “brave spaces” to encourage students to raise issues of implicit bias?

At the Implicit Bias 201 session, participants will learn strategies to create spaces that deliberately and consistently weave discussions about implicit bias into seminar, supervision, and rounds. From ways to signal that implicit bias is a valued part of classroom to making a habit of asking for diverse points of view, we can easily continue to discuss implicit bias throughout the semester. Participants will create and share model language for syllabi and classroom exercises to make discussions about implicit bias an on-going, reflective classroom practice. For those interested, this session will serve as a launching pad for a working group dedicated to intentionally incorporating implicit bias into our classrooms.

Fostering Healthy Lawyers: Implementing Well-Being as a Learning Outcome for Ourselves and Our Students

Kendall Kerew (Georgia State), Brittany Stringfellow Otey (Pepperdine), Gail Silverstein (UC Hastings), and Kelly Terry (Arkansas – Little Rock) will host (AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education) Fostering Healthy Lawyers: Implementing Well-Being as a Learning Outcome for Ourselves and Our Students, on Saturday, May 1, at 9 a.m. Pacific, 11 Central, 12 Eastern.

Good health and well-being are essential for lawyers to provide competent representation and experience fulfillment in their careers.  Even before the pandemic made this point emphatically, the ABA’s  “Report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being” found that the legal profession is falling short in promoting and ensuring the well-being of its members. While legal employers report that resiliency, and stress and crisis management are important skills for new attorneys, law schools often fall short in focusing on the development of these skills. Rather, many students who enter law school healthy develop mental health and substance abuse problems that follow them into the profession.

In the coming weeks, the ABA will address two relevant proposed revisions to the ABA Standards (one requiring law schools to provide substantial opportunity for the development of professional identity, which encompasses wellness and well-being, and one requiring law schools to provide information on law student well-being resources). In light of these proposed revisions, this session will explore how clinics and externships are uniquely positioned to incorporate and emphasize well-being, the accompanying challenges and opportunities, and the tools to implement and assess well-being — including an assessment rubric — as a learning outcome for both ourselves and students.

Planning for Resilience

Clinicians know all too well how difficult it can be to sustain our energy, health, and hope over the course of a semester, an academic year, and our careers.  One tool to build sustenance to keep at it, and to be there for our students, colleagues, and institutions, is rooted in the practice of resilience.  Resilience is a concept that is most helpful as a well-formed concept, rather than a generalized battle cry.  To this end, at the AALS clinical conference on April 29 (11:00-11:45 a.m. EDT), Elizabeth Keyes (University of Baltimore) and Anita Sinha (American) will lead a session entitled “Planning for Resilience.”

The faculty guiding the session acknowledge how the invocation of resilience can be frustrating (or worse) for individuals and communities who have faced racism, violence, and other injustices, typically for generations.  They hope to alleviate the potential burden of resilience by suggesting how it can be a collective endeavor, and how the process of self-definition can lead to concrete movement toward resilience.  The session will endeavor to build on an Audre Lorde quote: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”      

The session will collectively define the concept of resilience, and then engage in an exercise that assists participants to begin defining for themselves what matters to them personally, so to build a sense of self-definition that can be used to filter which opportunities they pursue, and which they decide to decline.  The session will conclude by connecting the concepts of self-definition and resilience to the active process of planning and investing in ourselves.

Fostering Wholehearted Lawyers through Clinical Legal Education

By: Susan L. Brooks, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law

            What does it mean to be a wholehearted lawyer?  Brené Brown defines wholehearted living as cultivating tools that allow us to experience a sense of love, worthiness, and belonging through daily practices of courage, compassion, and connection. 

I’ve discussed wholeheartedness in connection with Relational Lawyering, which I’ve defined as habits of mind and practices that center relationships, including the relationship with ourselves (personal), with each other (interpersonal), and the broader structures and institutions in which we live and work (systemic).  A relational approach is  grounded in the interconnectedness and mutuality of all beings.  All law teachers can bring wholeheartedness into the classroom if we adhere to the following core principles:

  • Teach from a place of kindness and curiosity with humility and transparency.
  • Recognize that everyone matters and that everyone wants to be seen and heard. ‘Mattering’ correlates with academic success and improved wellbeing
  • Appreciate our own contexts, including our values, multiple and intersectional cultural influences, identities, and histories, AND appreciate the contexts of others with whom we work and interact, and those who are impacted by our work.
  • Adopt a strengths-oriented, optimistic, growth mindset teaching and learning orientation.
  • Apply a relational ethic of care by ensuring everyone is given a voice, is listened to deeply and heard, and is responded to with dignity, respect, openness, and a generosity of spirit. This ethic of care applies with respect to our own self-compassion, as well as at an interpersonal level with students and others, and also represents a positive vision of lawyers’ professional roles and their potential impact on society.

In the context of clinical legal education, we have unique opportunities to apply these principles and foster them in our students through fully embracing our roles as teachers and supervisors.  By encouraging wholeheartedness in our students, we can help them become more effective in their immediate work with clients and others they encounter in student practice and support their positive professional identity formation.  At the same time, we can increase our own effectiveness and gain more enjoyment and fulfillment in our work. 

            I’m excited to offer a concurrent session at the upcoming clinical conference (Thursday, April 29th, 4:30-5:15) where we’ll explore teaching wholehearted lawyering in our clinical courses and programs. I’ll share core tools and practices from my recent clinical teaching experiences in a community lawyering clinic and an externship course.  I’m also eager to hear about ideas and tools others have been using that can foster wholeheartedness, including colleagues who haven’t previously thought of their work along these lines.

            In the session we’ll explore wholehearted practices using four themes that have become my teaching mantras over the past few years. All are drawn directly from the work of adrienne maree brown and are key elements of what she calls Emergent Strategy in her book by the same name.  While brown writes about these ideas in the context of social justice movements, they offer meaningful guidance for our work with students at the personal and interpersonal levels as well.  I share them here with deep gratitude to brown, my co-facilitators of the Law and Social Change Jam, and its sponsoring organization, YES! (

  • What we practice at the small scale sets the patterns for the whole system–“Fractals”

The idea of fractals comes from the natural world, where complex patterns replicate themselves beginning at a tiny scale and growing ever larger.  Appreciating fractals helps us understand the reasons we need to emphasize the importance on improving our own self-awareness as well as that of our students. Fractals teach us that how we are with ourselves deeply affects how we interact with others on an interpersonal basis, and that those personal and interpersonal dynamics have broad ripple effects on the larger systems in which we live and work, especially those we aim to transform through our clinical work.  Attending to what’s happening at the small scale means embracing small acts of kindness we can extend to others, including our students, clients, and colleagues.  It also means working to avoid microaggressions as much as possible and acknowledging when small (or large) unintended harms have taken place, so that there can be a possibility for accountability, repair, forgiveness, and healing to take place.

  • What we pay attention to grows— “Attention liberation.” 

This phenomenon demonstrates the reasons we need to focus on strengths—our own, our students’ and those of our clients and client communities. We can create new possibilities by asking and reflecting on what is working well, and how do we do more of it, rather than only asking what is broken and how we can fix it.  Attention liberation also invites us to notice our own experience and our reactions, especially places of discomfort or stretch, and embrace this discomfort as a necessary part of learning. By paying more attention to our own experience, we can become more comfortable with being uncomfortable for the sake of our own growth and transformation as well as the transformation of our interpersonal relationships and our society.  Attention liberation can ultimately support our efforts to move toward the liberation of historically marginalized individuals and communities, and to achieve equity, inclusion, belonging, and wellbeing for all.

  • Move at the Speed of Trust

The work of wholeheartedness is slow work. Building trust takes time and requires sensitivity to all the issues identified above, along with a trauma-informed and healing-centered lens on relationship-building. We need to recognize and honor this need for slowness by taking time for what I and others call “container building” in our clinics, meaning that we need to invest significant time and energy early on to lay the foundations for the work of wholeheartedness. We then need to check in regularly and genuinely invite and be responsive to feedback.  Building the container has some specific elements, including reaching out to students prior to the beginning of class and inviting them to share about themselves and an concerns they may have; creating a syllabus that includes relational learning goals and outcomes; acknowledging who we are and our histories, and where and how our clinics are situated;  welcoming our students whole selves’ into the work; using invitational language and meaning it; inviting sharing about values, particularly the values we bring into conflict; developing community agreements grounded in those shared values, including a commitment to create Brave Space; talking about language and the importance of choosing our words carefully and speaking from the “I” and from the heart; setting intentions; and incorporating music, gentle movement, breathing exercises, poetry, and other contemplative readings.  

  • Emphasize Presence over Prep; Critical Connections over Critical Mass

Let me be clear: strong preparation is essential to our and our students’ clinical work.  AND–by moving at the speed of trust and spending time building the container, we and our students can maximize the potential positive impact of our work by deepening our relationships and interconnectedness at all levels–what I call mindful engagement.  Mindful engagement means practicing mindfulness as a set of tools linked to our sense of purpose and to creating a more just world. Engaging in this whole bodied, wholehearted presence, means being able to slow down and notice what is happening for us moment by moment in our daily lives—meaning our bodily sensations and emotions as well as our analytical minds. To become more fully present, we need to listen with an open mind and open heart, to bring empathy and compassion to the difficult work of authentic relationship building across differences. We need to become more aware of our assumptions, biases, blind spots, power, privilege, and social location. We need to slow down enough to suspend judgments and make more intentional choices and be more reflective. We need to hold space for stillness, sadness, joy, and creativity. We also need to be willing to be vulnerable, to unmask and reveal more of ourselves, while also maintaining healthy boundaries. We need to model both Chutzpah-the ability to speak our truth—and Humility. Brené Brown encourages us to embrace this combination of traits as “sacred awkwardness.” 


Susan L. Brooks, Mindful Engagement and Relational Lawyering, 48 Southwestern L. Rev.267 (2019) (available at:

Susan L. Brooks, Fostering Wholehearted Lawyers: Practical Guidance for Supporting Law Students’ Professional Identity Formation, 14 St. Thomas L. Rev. 412 (2018). (available at:

adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds 15, 41-42, 50(2017) (available at: Emergent+Strategy+full+book.pdf.)

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are 1-6 (2010).

Mickey Scottbey Jones, Invitation to Brave Space (2017) (available at:

Shawn Ginwright, The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered engagement (2018 ) (available at:

Jenni Whelan, Grounding Professional Identity Formation in Wholeheartedness in Clinical Legal Education (April 15, 2021) (unpublished manuscript on file with author).

YES! Facilitation Manual (2017) (available at:

AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education

Ann Shalleck (American) and Conrad Johnson (Columbia) will host Presentation Principles, as part of the AALS Clinical Conference on Wednesday, April 28th from 3:45-4:30. In the digital age, lawyers have a broader palette of presentation options and need to make thoughtful choices about how to communicate. While digital technology has changed the options lawyers have to present information and heightened our awareness of the vast array of possibilities, lawyers have always had to decide among available technologies how to communicate many types of information in different contexts.   This concurrent session will provide you with a transferrable set of “Presentation Principles” that apply in any presentation context.

Through an interactive mock classroom exercise, Ann and Conrad will demonstrate one way to engage students in learning how to construct and analyze any presentation so that you can see how these organizing principles operate in the context of seminar teaching. Thereafter, we will transfer the framework to a supervision meeting in which students apply the principles in practice with our guidance and then reflect on the consequences of their presentation choices. With your participation, this could be an enjoyable and useful time together. 

Conference on Clinical Legal Education: “Taking Experiential Learning on the Road: The Benefits of Service-Learning Projects”

Service-learning projects provide an opportunity for experiential learning in a variety of contexts.  They expose students to different practice settings, allow law schools to respond to crises or provide legal services to underserved communities, and broaden opportunities for community engagement. At the AALS clinical conference on May 1 (12:00-12:45 p.m. EDT), Kristina Campbell (UDC), Michelle Ewert (Washburn), Katy Ramsey (Memphis), and Emily Torstveit Ngara (Georgia State) will lead a concurrent session entitled “Taking Experiential Learning on the Road: The Benefits of Service-Learning Projects.”

In this presentation, the clinical faculty will describe the service-learning projects that complement their clinics’ regular activities.  These projects include “know your rights” presentations; brief services to help clients address immediate discrete legal issues including employment law, consumer law, immigration law, criminal records expungement, eviction defense and family separation planning for people at risk of detention or deportation; criminal records expungement Clean Slate Day; advising public housing tenants on lease renewal questions; translation and interpretation assistance; development of self-help materials; assisting local partners in the representation of individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and observing and documenting court proceedings. In addition to providing pro bono services, students meet with local practitioners and in some projects participate in networking events to promote rural practice opportunities.

This concurrent session will focus on ways to pivot from existing clinical programming to respond to new crises, develop community partners to build relationships within communities and implement remote programming in locations where clinics don’t have a regular presence, obtain financial support for new programming, and conduct assessment and evaluation of student performance.

2021 Conference on Clinical Legal Education (AALS)

Wednesday, April 28 – Saturday, May 1, 2021
Reckoning with our Past and Building for the Future

Over the next week, the Best Practices blog will share posts from sessions at the upcoming AALS Conference on Legal Education. More information about the conference is available here.

This year’s conference theme is Reckoning With our Past and Building for the Future. As experiential legal educators who teach in-house clinics and externship courses, we find ourselves in unprecedented times, reacting to stressful external conditions while also coming to terms with practices that have perpetuated inequality and injustice.  This conference engages with this new reality, while also seeking to shift our collective gaze inward, to focus on ways we can strengthen ourselves and our community of educators, in order to respond effectively to today’s challenges.  Consistent with core clinical habits of introspection and reflection, we will examine ways to reimagine the foundations of our professional work, including our collaborative relationships, instructional approaches, and forms of community engagement.  We will also explore ways to fortify ourselves as individuals, with specific attention to wellness and professional growth.  Finally, during this transformative moment in society, we will critically assess our assumptions and long-standing practices, with an eye towards advancing antiracism and inclusiveness.

Conference Subthemes:

Conference Subthemes

  1. Collaboration.  Collaboration is key to our individual and collective sustainability, particularly in the challenging external environment in which we find ourselves.  What are effective models for collaboration across clinics, subject matter areas, and disciplines?  How can we promote collaboration and linkages across different types of experiential teaching (e.g., in-house clinics, externships, practica, and simulation courses)?  What types of collaborations are needed for our clinical work, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and movements for racial justice?  What other types of collaboration might the future require, and how can we begin cultivating those partnerships?
  2. Foundational and Emerging Lawyering Skills.  As clinicians, instruction on lawyering skills is central to our pedagogical project.  Moments of introspection and reflection permit us to examine our past practices in this area.  How can we enhance our pedagogy vis-a-vis core lawyering skills, such as interviewing, client counseling, case theory development, trial advocacy, and negotiation?  As we confront a new reality and look to the future, what emerging lawyering skills should we be integrating into our curricula, and how should we teach those skills?  How does the shift towards remote instruction and adjudication, and the ubiquity of technology, shape our pedagogy around foundational and emerging lawyering skills?
  3. Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Resilience.  Given the unprecedented stressors that we face in our professional lives and in society at large, wellness is a top priority.  What are we teaching our students about self-care and mindfulness, and how are incorporating these topics into our courses?  What practices should we as clinicians adopt to keep ourselves strong, focused, and intentional in our work? As we continue to navigate an uncertain future, how do we develop the quality of resilience — both in ourselves and in our students?  
  4. Professional Development.  The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic downturn have created an uncertain future for law schools and legal educators.  Moreover, the need to respond to an ever-changing environment leaves little time for contemplating and furthering our professional growth.  What are best practices for clinicians at different stages in their careers (e.g., fellows, pre-tenure, mid-career, approaching retirement), given the unique times we are living in?   What guidance and support can we provide for clinicians who are fighting for more equal status within their institutions?  Given law schools’ focus on experiential education, bar passage, and job placement, how can we leverage our strengths as clinicians? What challenges and opportunities does the current environment present for the professional advancement of clinicians? 
  5. Clinics and the Community.  Community engagement and the advancement of social justice are often central to our work as clinical legal educators.  In the current social and political moment, many clinicians are deepening their community-based work. As we take this moment to reflect, what are some critiques of existing models of community engagement?  How do we ensure that our approaches are sustainable?  How do we balance responsiveness to pressing community concerns with the need for stability in our teaching?  As we look towards an uncertain future, what models of community-based work should we embrace?
  6. Critically Examining Our Past.  This transformational moment offers an opportunity for individual clinicians, and for the clinical community as a whole, to critically examine our past practices, including assumptions about our work as well as the structures in which we operate.  This process of self-examination also includes introspection about biases embedded in our work and the steps needed to promote antiracism and inclusiveness.  What aspects of our community and its work deserve more careful examination and critique?  How can we remedy existing deficiencies and reimagine the role and contributions of clinical legal educators?


Nearly a year has passed since historic events and protests, domestically and internationally, brought renewed attention to racial justice and the discriminatory and racist practices ever present in our social structures. The Black Lives Matter protests called attention to the unjust and disproportionate treatment of Black and Brown individuals by law enforcement and other institutions. More recently, violent attacks have roiled Asian communities, which have already been the targets of violence and hateful rhetoric since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And publicized incidents at various institutions of higher learning have demonstrated the failure of these institutions to protect students from racism, even within the walls of academia. As law schools and faculties reflect on how to advance racial justice and equality, the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) calls upon law school administrations and faculties, including experiential faculty, to play an active role in reforming our institutions and transforming our communities to be anti-racist. 

An anti-racist curriculum is essential to disrupting and undoing racism in all its forms. Experiential courses are a critical component of any effective anti-racist curriculum, as such courses often allow for individualized student engagement, via legal work in local and marginalized communities, in order to promote social change and access to justice. 

But experiential faculty should not rest on traditional notions of clinical and externship pedagogy. We encourage experiential faculty to actively implement principles of anti-racist education into their teaching. As recent events have made clear, students from marginalized backgrounds have long been considered less qualified and competent than their peers by some faculty, including law faculty. Such treatment creates an inequitable and hostile educational environment that can impede students’ ability to learn and succeed. As experiential faculty, we are particularly concerned with how racist and biased views from faculty members can negatively affect student performance in experiential courses. The elimination of biases and the perception of biases in grading and assessment is particularly important in experiential courses, which do not generally employ blind or anonymous grading. Experiential faculty must therefore create an intellectual environment that promotes a climate of equity and inclusivity for all students.  

CLEA also encourages law schools to treat their experiential faculty equitably in terms of pay, job security, and status, as those faculty members are often disproportionately women and racial minorities. Inequalities between faculty members communicate to students, whether implicitly or explicitly, the relative value of those faculty. Moreover, even as women and racial minorities tend to be overrepresented in experiential faculties as compared to non-experiential faculties, law schools must do more to increase the diversity in their experiential faculties. As a recent essay by the CLEA Faculty Equity & Inclusion Committee demonstrates, the racial diversity of clinical faculty has remained stagnant in recent decades. The need for diverse faculties in experiential education is self-evident. Demographics matter, and any lack of diversity in experiential faculty negatively affects students, clients, and communities alike. CLEA has led efforts to diversify clinical and externship faculties and will continue that work in upcoming programming at the 2021 AALS Clinical Conference, in materials developed with the AALS Clinical Section Policy Committee, and in legal scholarship. We look forward to continuing this work alongside our colleagues in the coming months and years through specific recommendations aimed at improving the dismal demographical data that our research has identified.  

Law schools should take proactive steps to ensure that their faculty members work to eliminate biases and racism in their teaching and should support their students of color, who inevitably face disparate treatment and shoulder the burdens of responding to such incidents. They should also prioritize hiring faculty members that reflect the communities they serve in their experiential programs and treat those faculty members equitably. Despite the recent attention given to anti-racist initiatives, law schools have much work to do in their quest to develop a more equitable, just, and inclusive discipline and profession. CLEA looks forward to working with its members and other members of legal academia to further these goals. 

This statement was drafted and approved by the CLEA Faculty Equity & Inclusion Committee and approved by the CLEA Board of Directors.  

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning – Reflecting Back and Moving Forward: Effective Instruction in Online, Hybrid, and In-Person Learning Environments

Conference Structure:  Conference sessions will take place on Thursday, June 10, and Friday, June 11. All conference sessions will be via Zoom, including three plenary sessions from experts in the field of online education and more than a dozen concurrent workshops presented by law school colleagues from across the country.  Descriptions of the specific topics for the plenary and concurrent sessions will be provided in subsequent communications.

Registration Information: Attendance is FREE, although registration is required. We hope attendees will join for any and all sessions that seem relevant and interesting to their current teaching focus and practice.

To Register, Please Use This Link:

Hosted by Texas A&M Law, the Network for Justice, and the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities

WEBINAR THIS WEEK, REGISTER TODAY:”Training Social Justice Lawyers Today”law and social justice graphicTexas A&M University School of Law, the Network for Justice, and the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities present a FREE webinar series to examine pressing issues in social justice and the law, particularly as they impact the Latinx community. Please join us this Thursday to discuss “Training Social Justice Lawyers Today” on April 8, at 12:00 Noon Central.  Registersocial-justice-apr8-webinar-presenters2Presenters:• Carrie Bettinger-López, University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic
• Denisse Córdova Montes, University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic
• Deborah Archer, NYU School of Law
• Moderator: Louise Trubek, University of Wisconsin Law School
      Today’s world demands new approaches to social justice lawyering and new ways to train law students. We’ll discuss needed reform in scholarship, courses and clinical curriculum, and pedagogy. This webinar brings together law school teachers who are exploring how law and lawyers can contribute to the struggle for a more just society.

The Othering of the AAPI Community in America

Friday, 9 April 2021
Noon Pacific (3:00 Eastern)

This week’s SALT webinar will explore the long, contested relationship of the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities in America from both an historical and contemporary lens.  

Please join a moderated discussion with Dean Sean Scott, Professor Vinay Harpalani and Professor Rose Cuison-Villazor on Friday, April 9, 12-1 pst (3-4 eastern).  Professor Harpalani’s scholarship focuses on the intersections between race, education, and law, as he explores the nuances of racial diversity and identity from various disciplinary perspectives.  Professor Rose Cuison-Villazor is an expert in immigration, citizenship, property law and race and the law.  


On Experiential Education

By: Luz Herrera

Allison Korn and Laila Hlass’ research, documented in Assessing the Experiential (R)evolution, offers a revealing  snapshot of how law schools have adapted to the ABA accreditation standards that requires six units of experiential education. The survey data provided by experiential educators from 126 law schools in 2018, provide the basis for a series of recommendations the authors make about what law schools should consider as they continue to grow and maintain their experiential program.  One of the many questions they ask us to consider is whether law schools are valuing teaching loads and providing sufficient status for experiential instructors to be sustainable?

The issue of status in experiential education has long been, and continues to be, a difficult subject for law schools, particularly for clinical faculty. In 2000, the AALS president formed a Committee on Good Practices Regarding Clinical Faculty that was charged with convincing law schools to integrate clinicians “as full participants in the legal education enterprise.” The committee, however, did not issue any recommendations or conclusions.  In 2005, the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education took up the charge and appointed a Task Force on the Status of Clinicians and the Legal Academy to examine clinician status in U.S. law schools and “to recommend appropriate models for clinical appointments within the legal academy.” After reviewing CSALE survey data, the Task Force found various types of positions for clinicians but overall little parity between them and non-clinical faculty. After additional input at town halls and balancing the various views and realities of law schools, the Task Force set forth four core principles to guide status decisions:

“(1) Clinical education is a foundational and essential component of legal education;
(2) The legal academy and profession benefit from full inclusion of clinical faculty on all matters affecting the mission, function, and direction of law schools;
(3) There is no justification for creating hierarchies between clinical and non-clinical faculty; and
(4) The standards for hiring, retention, and promotion of clinical faculty must recognize and value the responsibilities and methodologies of clinical teaching.”

Ultimately the Task Force concluded that the gold standard that exemplified these principles requires clinical faculty to be full-time and placed on a unitary tenure track since tenure offers the greatest security of employment. The Task Force recommended that at least a core group of full-time clinical faculty should be on the unitary tenure track in order to have similar status that ultimately translates into academic freedom, in addition to full voting and governance rights. It urged law schools to develop standards for hiring, promotion and retention that account for the responsibilities and approaches that clinical faculty employ. The Task Force found that separate clinical tenure and long-term contract models were inferior because they usually provided less security and governance rights. It also urged that short term positions and fellowships be limited.

As clinicians advocated for greater status and inclusion in law schools, the American Law Deans Association advocated for greater control on hiring decisions. Control included resisting changes to accreditation standards that required security of position for clinical faculty. The history of the resistance is well documented by Peter Joy in his article, ABA Standard 405(c): Two Steps Forward and One Step Back for Legal Education. Ultimately the ABA Standards Review Committee amended ABA Standard 405(c) to require law schools to offer “full-time clinical faculty members a form of security of position reasonably similar to tenure.” Standard 405(c) permitted law schools to require clinical faculty to have similar responsibilities as other full-time faculty members but still allowed law schools to build experiential programs that included short-term appointments as long as the clinical program was primarily “staffed by full-time faculty members.”

Despite efforts to improve the status of clinical faculty and promote more experiential education, the growth of experiential education at ABA law schools seems to have only further cemented the legal profession’s caste system at most law schools. As Bob Kuehn’s recent blog post explains, the most recent survey data by the Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE) shows a reduction in clinical tenure and tenure track positions in the last twelve years. Since 2010, clinic and externship hiring has largely been for contract positions and within the top ranked 25 law schools, tenure is almost non-existent for this group.

Former AALS President Dean Darby Dickerson recently penned a call to Abolish the Academic Caste System within legal education. In her essay she calls on law schools to acknowledge the contributions of non-tenure-track faculty by (1) converting faculty to tenure lines or develop processes that permits these non-tenure line faculty members to convert to tenure-line status; (2) calling on deans to equalize pay of non-tenure track faculty; and (3) shift the law school culture to show more respect for non-tenure line faculty as a way of prioritizing community and not upholding the caste system. She explains that non-tenure line faculty often contribute much more service and teaching than their colleagues. Dean Dickerson recognizes that often these faculty members are not provided equal voice in faculty governance or hiring, given similar faculty development support and the physical location of their offices are often removed from the law school’s core operation. She explains that salaries, job security, and respect for these faculty members are far less equitable. Dean Dickerson also acknowledges that not all non-tenure line faculty want tenure.

The  last CSALE Survey supports the view that “insufficient faculty status” is not the top priority for clinicians as it was listed by only 33 percent of the law school clinic respondents and 23 percent of field placement respondents as the major challenge to their program. However, other CSALE responses that ranked higher in the category of major challenges reflect a lack of institutional investment in clinical programs, overburdened clinical personnel, and few clinical faculty lines.

In their article, Korn and Hlass recommend that law schools ensure security status and value teaching loads of clinical faculty. They also encourage us to think about providing support and professional development for clinicians. What are our options when the trend is to hire more contract faculty and adjuncts to teach clinics, externships, and other experiential programs? How do we do that when many deans view the smaller class enrollment of clinics and externships as not equivalent to grading finals in a large doctrinal class? When our academic deans tell us that teaching first year classes is a good marketing opportunity to ensure greater visibility and therefore higher clinic enrollment? When externship expansion is preferred over clinic development because it is much cheaper to bring in adjuncts and convert staff positions to lecturer status?

Security of position is essential for any experiential dean to be effective. There are still many deans who are unwilling adopters of experiential education and who view it as too expensive an investment that does not further the academic integrity. Tenure, whether through the traditional route or a similar clinical track, should offer sufficient security of position to permit the head of an experiential program to fully participate in hiring decisions and to have disagreements with their deans – whether that is the main dean or the academic dean. An experiential dean often has to work with program directors and faculty with a variety of statuses. They must have enough status to feel safe telling a senior colleague with tenure that their seminar cannot be classified as experiential just because they want larger enrollment. However, the success of any experiential programs depends on the sustainability of all those who work in those programs, not just its leader.

It is critical to have a cohort of other faculty teaching in clinic with security of position who can help educate the larger community about the value of our work. Staff attorneys, adjuncts, and fellows are fungible. They can help build a program but there is little security for them. So it is important to be clear when advertising for soft money positions that their role will be different than other faculty as a result of funding and the existing caste system in legal education. To be clear, there are few jobs in our country that offer as much security of employment as some of our jobs. Still, when most around you have security and you don’t, it is something you notice, even if others insist it doesn’t make a difference. 

Having a cohort of clinicians with status at any institution helps facilitate the program’s growth and increases the likelihood of hiring for the program. Still, problems arise when unitary tenure track clinicians are given higher teaching loads than others. A tenure line professor on a unitary track is often expected to meet the same scholarship requirements as their colleagues who do not have to recruit clients, educate and train students to do client work, manage caseloads, and transition client matters at the end of the semester. While there are some schools that have little disparities between faculty on clinical tracks and those on traditional tenure lines, most have clear distinctions just by the virtue of a different title. It is important to provide full-time clinical faculty, regardless of their status, with a manageable workload and plenty of faculty development opportunities such as pre-tenure faculty leaves, summer coverage, administrative staff support, co-teaching opportunities, and staff attorneys.  It is also helpful to support clinical faculty, whether they have status or not, with continuing education and helping them increase their profile in the local and law school community.

Valuing teaching loads is much harder to offer a prescription for because all law schools have different standards and there is not sufficient understanding amongst our non-clinic colleagues of all that goes into teaching a clinic. Still, it is important to insist on fairly balanced teaching loads for clinicians and to provide newer faculty some time to develop their clinic before launching. It is hard to explain to colleagues who teach 50-80 student classes that a clinic of 8-10 students is more or equivalent work. But few of them would trade with us, if given the chance.  

SALT: Social Justice in Action

Social Justice in Action Webinar
SALT is proud to resume our webinar series, Social Justice in Action, featuring law school teachers sharing their expertise on how to educate the next generation of lawyers, support students of color, and dismantle structural inequality and racism in the United States.

This February 26 webinar will explore trauma informed lawyering and teaching. Experts in this field will share insight into how we better can support students, clients, and ourselves in the face of racism, other forms of discrimination, economic and resource inequality, experience with violence, health and housing insecurity, and other trauma. Register below to join us for this month’s important discussion.
 Trauma Informed Teaching & Lawyering Friday, February 26, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST
Register Here 
Featured Panelists
Sarah Katz
 Prof. Katz joined the Temple Law faculty in July 2012. She directs and teaches the Family Law Litigation Clinic. She researches and writes about trauma-informed legal practice, the child welfare system, child custody, intimate partner violence, and other family law topics.
Teri McMurtry-Chubb

 Prof. McMurtry-Chubb researches, teaches, and writes in the areas of critical rhetoric, discourse and genre analysis, and legal history. She has lectured nationally on structural discrimination in educational institutions and the workplace, and is a leader in designing curricula to facilitate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
Andrew Sta. Ana

 Mr. Sta. Ana is the Director of Law and Policy at Day One. Based in New York City, Day One partners with youth to end dating abuse through community education, supportive services, legal advocacy and leadership development. Mr. Sta. Ana works to amplify the voices of young survivors and to promote healthy relationships.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email
containing information about joining the meeting.

The Imperative and Power of Empirical Research

By Anahid Gharakhanian, Southwestern Law School

Allison Korn and Laila L. Hlass’s Assessing the Experiential (R)evolution, recently published in Villanova Law Review, should be celebrated as a much needed example of empirical investigation and analysis in legal education, specifically experiential education.  As aptly noted in the Experiential Education section of Building on Best Practices, “[l]egal education urgently needs empirical research on what methods will best promote deep learning that transfers to practice.” 

For many years, the experiential teaching community has had the benefit of the triennial CSALE Study, providing extensive data about the infrastructure of clinics and externships.  Now Korn & Hlass’s empirical work provides data about the proliferation of deans/directors of experiential education and growth in experiential curricula.  This data sets the stage for the important questions they raise about what law schools are doing about the following:  “working to uplift experiential programming as an essential part of the institution,” and “core to the law school curriculum”; “taking steps to identify, recruit, and support clinicians of color”; and ensuring security of position and voice in law school governance.  Korn & Hlass’s work, along with CSALE’s compilation of data since 2007 about applied legal education, serves as an essential foundation for posing these important questions and joins the clarion call of others that rigorous empirical research is critical in every aspect of our assessment and advancement of experiential education – the students’ learning, role of experiential curricula, and diversity of and equity for experiential faculty. 

I think about the critical importance of empirical work from the vantage point of externships or field placement courses, which provide a singularly unique bridge to practice and where so much of the student’s experience occurs outside of the classroom and the externship professor’s direct observation.  Anecdotally we know that these real world experiences are very important to a student’s professional development and practice readiness as a new attorney.  At the same time, the ABA and some in legal education have worried about the educational rigor outside of the law school setting.  What’s needed is exploration of our impressions and perceptions through rigorous empirical work.  In the world of externships, this translated into research questions that Carolyn Young Larmore, of Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, and I took up in a year-long, multi-school study, assessing students’ success at externships and factors contributing to it (involving three law schools in the same geographic area, with very different externship program designs, and widely different incoming credentials – with 2019 median LSATs of 153, 158, and 168).  The study yielded helpful information about the importance of externships to practice readiness.  Also, a notable finding of our study – related to access – was that students from all three surveyed schools achieved very similar levels of externship success (measured in terms of first-year practice readiness), regardless of widely different entering credentials as well as the academic component of the externship programs.  Similarly, the study found that law school GPA plays a very limited role in predicting externship success.  You can see how this data could be a powerful tool in creating access for law students, from many diverse academic backgrounds and schools, to career-shaping professional experiences while in law school and beyond.

As we tackle empirical questions in experiential education, it’s helpful to think about backward design.  In the case of the experiential programming that we offer to our students, a couple of recent national studies are enormously helpful: IAALS’s Foundations for Practice, a relatively recent national study about what foundations entry-level attorneys need to begin a successful legal career (which is the study that Carolyn and I used to define externship success in our own study – i.e., how close are externs by the end of their externship to first-year practice readiness); and the very recent study by IAALS and Professor Deborah Jones Merritt, Building a Better Bar: Capturing Minimum Competence, with one of its two objectives to “[d]evelop and promote understanding of the minimum competence needed to practice law” (and the second one to “[a]lign the bar exam with research-based concepts of minimum competence”). 

To borrow from IAALS and Professor Merritt, the key here is being guided by research-based concepts.  Whether assessing our students’ learning (as Carolyn and I tackled in our externship study), or raising questions about the role of experiential curricula, and diversity of and equity for experiential faculty – as Korn & Hlass have done – we need to engage in more empirical research and use this powerful tool to inform and advance the critical work of experiential education and educators.

Lawyers are Leading Higher Education as Advocates Call for More Formal Leadership Training in Legal Education

Patricia E. Salkin*

My recent research on the exponential increase in the number of lawyers leading colleges and universities has prompted an exploration into the what it is in legal education that prepares lawyers for key campus leadership positions. Since the 1980s the number of lawyer presidents has almost doubled every decade, starting with 47 in the 1980s and reaching a high of 289 in the 2010s. Some of these lawyers leaders have government experience, others served as general counsel, and many have had significant fundraising experience.  The number of women lawyer presidents has also increased paralleling their rise to prominence within the legal profession.

Lawyers are prone to describe themselves as creative problem solvers who possess necessary leadership skills for success as leaders in law firms, government, business and increasingly in higher education. But are lawyers born leaders or do lawyers acquire leadership skills as part of their formal academic training?  Until very recently, few if any law schools historically included leadership training as a distinct topic of study in the curriculum. In fact Professor Deborah Rhode wrote in one of the first newsletters of the AALS Section on Leadership, “As you all know, it is a shameful irony that the occupation that produces the greatest number of American leaders has done so little to effectively and intentionally prepare them for that role. Although the legal profession accounts for only about .4 percent of the population, it has supplied a majority of American presidents, and innumerable leaders throughout the public and private sector. Few of these individuals receive any formal leadership training in law schools.”  She reiterated this sentiment during an AALS interview calling on law schools to embrace the need for more formal leadership training, which can and should be more intentionally learned.

Surprisingly, contributions to the Best Practices in Legal Education blog have paid little attention to this critical topic. Scattered posts have focused on the addition of a new course at one school, the establishment of the new AALS Section on Leadership and a workshop for law professors interested in integrating leadership related topics into classes, and the launch of the Leading as Lawyers Blog.   Yet the call for more deliberate inclusion of leadership studies in legal education is rising. Thanks in large part of the efforts of Baylor Law Associate Dean Leah Teague, in 2017 the American Association of Law Schools charted the new Section on Leadership, “to promote scholarship, teaching and related activities that will help prepare lawyers and law students to serve in leadership roles.” A panel discussion moderated by Baylor Dean Bradley J.B. Toben on Leadership Programming in Law Schools at the 2020 Baylor Law School Vision for Leadership Conference noted that 80 of the 203 law schools now have some form of leadership development for students. UIC John Marshall Dean Darby Dickerson posited that because of legal training, lawyers are well-positioned to be leaders in a VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity).  She explained that lawyers are trained to: continuously ask hard questions; find the essence of the problem by breaking it down into subparts – taking it apart and putting it together again; use multiple perspectives; be problem-solvers; analyze and cope with fact gaps and ambiguity; understand agreements and honor commitments; communicate clearly and concisely; and be life-long learners. All of this and more are important skills for effective leaders.

In one of her seminal books, Deborah Rhode, writing about leadership traits of lawyers, noted that despite the robust literature on “trait theories” of leadership, the context and roles in which lawyers function are critically important. She explained that the widely accepted traits of successful leaders include:

            values (such as integrity, honesty, trust and an ethic of service);      

            personal skills (such as self-awareness, self-control, and self-direction);

            interpersonal skills (such as social awareness, empathy, persuasion, and conflict


            vision (such as a forward-looking and inspirational); and

technical competence (such as knowledge, preparation and judgment). (Rhode, Deborah, Lawyers as Leaders, Oxford University Press 2013)

The Center for Creative Leadership identified ten core skills that effective leaders possess, only a few of which overlap with Rhode’s list:  integrity; ability to delegate; communication; self-awareness; gratitude; learning agility; influence; empathy; courage; and respect.  Two skills that lawyer pride themselves on, creativity (e.g., creative problem solvers) and innovation are missing from this list.  The intersection between leadership and creativity has not been widely studied.  Ben Heineman, Jr., in his essay on Lawyers as Leaders, called upon law schools to require students to create and not just critique as part of their education. In a recently published article, University of Idaho College of Law Professor John Dykstra made a compelling case for fostering and teaching creativity in the law school curriculum, and he suggested ways in which it can be incorporated into Legal Writing programs.

All of these identified traits and/or skills could be deliberately mapped through the curriculum in addition to offering focused seminars on leadership for lawyers.  For example, Columbia Law School has developed a Leadership Competency Matrix that focuses on how lawyers lead self, lead others and lead change through: vision and strategy, management and teamwork, problem solving, cultural literacy, and learning and improvement.   

The good news is that law schools are starting to heed the call for increased leadership training. In addition to the annual Baylor Law conferences, in November 2019 the Freedman Institute of Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law hosted a conference at the Association of the Bar of the City on training lawyers as leaders.  Formal programs on leadership for lawyers (e.g., more than simply a course) exist at a number of schools including:  Baylor Law School,  Santa Clara University School, University of Tennessee College of Law, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, and the Moritz School of Law at Ohio State University.  The following is an illustrative but not exhaustive list of law school courses and programs on leadership: Albany Law; Baylor Law; Berkeley Law; Cleveland-Marshall School of Law; Columbia Law; Creighton University School of Law; Elon Law; George Mason University- Antonin Scalia Law School; NYU Law; Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law School; Santa Clara Law School; Stanford Law School; Tennessee College of Law; Texas A&M School of law; University of Chicago Law School; University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and Pritzker School of Law Northwestern University; University of San Francisco School of Law; and Villanova University School of Law School.

In January 2021 the legal profession lost a giant with the passing of Deborah Rhode the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law and the Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School. One way in which legal academy can pay tribute to Professor Rhode is to continue to answer her call for more formal training on leadership across the law school curriculum.

*Patricia Salkin is Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs for Touro College and University System and Provost for the Graduate and Professional Divisions at Touro College.  She is the former Dean of the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Touro Law Center.  This piece is based upon her PhD dissertation research at the University of the Arts (PhD in Creativity anticipated May 2022).

%d bloggers like this: