Highlights from the 2016 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education

Visit the AALS Flickr site for additional
photos from the conference.

More than 650 clinicians attended the 39th Conference on Clinical Legal Education of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS), April 30–May 3, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. The meeting’s theme, “Clinics and Communities: Exploring Community Engagement Through Clinical Education,” was integrated throughout the programming, including community-focused sessions and opportunities to engage directly with the city’s community organizations.

Conference attendees

Conference attendees enjoy the Opening Plenary Session.

“It was a very intentional choice to make Baltimore not just the place we all came to, but a part of the conference. The fact that we were are here at a time when Baltimore is the center of a lot of community movements defined the theme for the program,” said Phyllis Goldfarb, Chair of the Planning Committee for the conference.

Phyllis Goldfarb, The George Washington University Law School

AALS Clinical Conference Planning Committee Chair Phyllis Goldfarb, The George Washington University Law School.

The event featured over 350 speakers covering a wide range of clinical topics, including opening keynote speaker Gerald López, whose seminal book Rebellious Lawyering: One Chicano’s Vision of Progressive Law Practice has had an abiding impact on theory and practice for public interest lawyers and clinical legal educators since its publication 25 years ago.

Gerald López, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law discusses “rebellious lawyering” at the Opening Keynote address with Ascanio Piomelli, University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Gerald López, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law discusses “rebellious lawyering” at the Opening Keynote address with Ascanio Piomelli, University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Alicia Alvarez, AALS Executive Committee member and clinical professor of law at The University of Michigan Law School, reflected on the Rebellious Lawyering Symposium and its connections, 25 years after publication, to contemporary issues in clinical legal education: “It’s a book that puts out certain ideas about clinical education. People have commented, written, talked, and even argued about the book and the concept of rebellious lawyering—but how can we make it relevant to the work we’re doing [in clinical legal education] in 2016 and going forward? That’s the question we tackled at the conference and continue to tackle.”

Alicia Alvarez

AALS Executive Committee Member Alicia Alvarez, The University of Michigan Law School.

On Sunday, the conference hosted a plenary session on the Black Lives Matter movement, its community activists, and the demonstrations that unfolded in the aftermath of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while he was in custody of Baltimore police. The discussion focus on the role law school clinics play in some of the legal challenges that have resulted in the case and the subsequent protests.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, UCLA Law with Renée Hutchins, University of Maryland Law

Kimberlé Crenshaw, UCLA Law with Renée Hutchins, University of Maryland Law during a Plenary Session on law school clinics and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Earlier that day, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby discussed how her clinical legal education has prepared her for her challenges as lead prosecutor for the city and for the Freddie Gray wrongful death cases.

Marilyn J. Mosby, State's Attorney for Baltimore City

Marilyn J. Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, discussed how her clinical legal education prepared her for her career.

“The Black Lives Matter movement is very vibrant here,” said Goldfarb. “With so much community organizing around structural problems in Baltimore, [the Planning Committee] knew we could renew this question of how clinics relate to communities and community movements. We thought it was time to ground ourselves again in the foundation of clinical education—the community.”

Both the University of Baltimore School of Law and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law held offsite receptions for attendees, which provided time and space to share ideas, reconnect, and experience the local law school community first-hand.

On Monday, the Plenary Session covered how experiential courses can include community engagement and panelists shared techniques for generating public participation. The presenters also discussed examples of interactive classroom activities and how to include community partners in assessment.

Presenters at the Plenary Session

Presenters at the Plenary Session on Innovative and Sustainable Clinical Engagement with Community Needs.

In addition, conference attendees had the option to spend time offsite at any of six community engagement project sites, which included organizations like The Baltimore Housing Roundtable, the District Court of Baltimore City, and the Re-Entry Center for individuals with criminal records.

The Clinical Legal Education Association presented their awards for Per Diem Project, Excellence in Public Interest Case/Project, and Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers during the AALS luncheon on Monday. That luncheon also featured comments from John Nethercut, current Executive Director of the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center.

John Nethercut, Executive Director of the Public Justice Center

John Nethercut, Executive Director of the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, addresses attendees at the AALS Luncheon on May 2.

The AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education offered the opportunity for scholars to present their work in different formats, including poster presentations which were showcased throughout the conference. On Tuesday, scholars also had the chance to workshop projects in-progress and focus on specific issues in several working groups.

Katy Ramsey, The George Washington University Law School

Katy Ramsey, The George Washington University Law School, presents a poster on the Clinician’s Helping Hand Project Mentorship Program.

The 2016 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education was constructed by the Planning Committee, who volunteered countless hours during the past year to organize the conference. The committee included:

  • Phyllis Goldfarb, The George Washington University Law School, Chair
  • Carolyn B. Grose, Mitchell | Hamline School of Law
  • Margaret E. Johnson, University of Baltimore School of Law
  • Tamara Kuennen, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Julie D. Lawton, DePaul University College of Law
  • JoNel Newman, University of Miami School of Law
  • Daniel M. Schaffzin, The University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

AALS thanks the committee for their dedication to making this year’s clinical conference a great success.

Networking at the 2016 AALS Clinical Conference.

Attendees connect between sessions at the 2016 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education.