More than 650 legal educators attended the 40th AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education, May 6-9, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. The meeting’s theme, “Serving the Client in Tumultuous Times: Fostering Responsibility to Individuals, Communities, and Society in Clinical Legal Education,” served as a unifying concept for the programming.
Attendees at the 2017 AALS Clinical Conference
“Tumult in the legal academy has been developing over time,” said Carol Suzuki, professor, University of New Mexico School of Law and chair of the conference planning committee. “Declining student applications, bar passage rates, and job opportunities raise important questions about our approach to legal education. The new ABA standards regarding experiential learning and student assessment have added new pressures. Our continuing duty to teach professional skills, judgment, and values brings its own ongoing challenges, as well.”
2017 AALS Clinical Conference Programming Committee Chair Carol Suzuki
Much like the 2017 Annual Meeting theme of “Why Law Matters,” the Clinical Conference theme was developed before the U.S. Presidential Election, but the current political environment and recent policy changes were addressed by a number of sessions and fit into the theme well.
“Program content evolved over time as presenters developed their sessions throughout the winter and spring, and as the new administration and local government decisions produced adverse effects for the clients and in the communities served by law school clinics,” Suzuki said.
The event featured more than 300 speakers covering a broad range of topics including utilizing technology, teaching students to manage client relationships, and preparing students for a legal career. This year’s conference offered an opportunity to look back at the growth and development of clinical legal education and the impact it had on legal education since its inception.
Attendees at the session “Advocacy on Behalf of Communities in Light of Post-Election Needs.”
“For the 40th anniversary of the conference, we reflected on the advancement of clinical education to prepare students for law practice and promote social justice in underserved communities, and considered the tremendous work ahead of us to continue to address educational and societal needs,” Suzuki said. “We also see the influence that clinical legal education has had in the development of ABA standards relating to experiential learning and student learning outcomes that include professional skills and values at the core of clinical teaching and learning.”
The pre-conference AALS Clinical and Experiential Law Program Directors Workshop kicked off the meeting on May 5-6, which addressed ABA experiential requirements, managing externship programs, and developing core values for law school clinics. Previously named the Law Clinic Directors Workshop, the meeting was renamed in recognition of the expanding range of law school faculty who hold leadership positions in clinical law, externship, and experiential learning programs.
Saturday evening reception with poster presentations.
The reception on Saturday marked the start of the full conference and provided an opportunity for poster presenters to showcase their clinics, projects and concepts related to clinical legal education. Preparing students for a global job market, teaching ethics, integrating clinical education in the first-year, client interviewing, teaching methods, and international clinical education were among the issues covered by the poster displays.
Poster Presentation: “Going Beyond Observation; Advocacy Exercises for Judicial Internship Clinics” by The Honorable John Cratsley, Harvard Law School (Retired) & Kate Devlin Joyce, Boston College Law School.
The first full day of the conference kicked off on Sunday with the plenary session “Pushing On and Pushing Through in Tumultuous Times” with Craig B. Futterman (The University of Chicago, The Law School), Bill O. Hing (University of San Francisco School of Law), and Susan R. Jones (The George Washington University Law School). The session was moderated by Michael Pinard (University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law).
Panelists at the Opening Plenary Session.
University of Denver Sturm College of Law and University of Colorado Law School hosted a reception for the clinical community at a venue in Denver’s River North Art District on Sunday evening, attended by approximately 200 registrants.
University of Alabama Law faculty Jenny Ryan, Joshua Medina and Anne Sikes Hornsby at the reception Sunday evening.
The conference continued on Monday with the plenary session “Client Relationships in Periods of Significant Legal and Political Change: Flexible Pedagogy to Maximize Skills Transfer” with Alicia Alvarez (The University of Michigan Law School), Sameer M. Ashar (University of California, Irvine School of Law), Jenny Roberts (American University, Washington College of Law), and Stephen Wizner (Yale Law School). Panelists discussed how clinics can adapt to a changing legal landscape and as an example, Yale Law professor Muneer Ahmad shared the experiences of his students helping travelers affected by the Trump Administration’s travel ban issued in late February.
Panelists at the Plenary Session “Client Relationships in Periods of Significant Legal and Political Change: Flexible Pedagogy to Maximize Skills Transfer.”
Yale Law professor Muneer Ahmad describes the experience of students assisting travelers affected by the Trump Administration’s travel ban.
Monday evening featured the Clinic Community Town Hall “Building Our Collective Response and Vision of Social Justice in Tumultuous Times” with Patience A. Crowder (University of Denver Sturm College of Law), Carolyn Grose (William Mitchell College of Law), Rachel López (Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law), and Bill Quigley (Loyola University New Orleans College of Law). Presenters put the current legal and political environment in historical context and discussed how law school clinics can play a role in addressing the legal challenges of the day. The town hall concluded with breakout sessions dedicated to topics such as lawyering and social movements, and working with the needs of local immigrant and business communities in the wake of changing policies.
The conference luncheons served as a platform to honor many distinguished careers and accomplishments in the field of clinical legal education.
“The clinical law community is indebted to and honors the clinicians who first ventured into clinical legal education as a means of teaching law students professional skills and values while promoting social justice,” Suzuki said. “Their leadership, their welcoming of new generations, and their continuing contributions have enriched us all.”
On Sunday, Fordham University School of Law Professor Chi Adanna Mgbako received the 2017 Shanara Gilbert Award from the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education, which honors an outstanding clinician with less than 10 years of experience in the field.
Chi Adanna Mgbako honored with the 2017 Shanara Gilbert Award from the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education.
On Monday, Colleen Shanahan, Clinical Law Professor & Director of Justice Lab at the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law received the 2017 Outstanding Project Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). The organization then honored former AALS President (2000) Elliott Milstein, Professor, American University Washington College of Law, with their Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers award.
CLEA award recipient Elliott Milstein (American University, Washington College of Law) at the session “Utilizing Supervision Pedagogy to Teach for Transfer: Theory, Planning, and Practice.”
“The warm welcome and celebration as Elliott Milstein was given his award demonstrated the appreciation of his contributions and reflected the progress that clinical legal education has made to the academy,” Suzuki said.
Standing ovation for CLEA award recipient Elliott Milstein.
Over the four days, the conference featured workshops dedicated to working with various communities including the homeless, veterans, victims of domestic violence, and families seeking citizenship and asylum.
Keith Fogg (Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law), Nicole B. Friederichs (Suffolk University Law School), and Emily M. Broad Leib (Harvard Law School) at the session “Grow-Your-Own Solutions: Developing and Teaching Alternative Paths to Justice Despite Weak Law/Bad Law/No Law.”
Participants also attended working sessions for alternative dispute resolution, civil rights, clinic administration, community economic development, education law, environmental law, immigration law, juvenile law, legal writing, and many others.
Attendees participating in an exercise during the session “Teaching Empathy to Millennials for These Tumultuous Times.”
Workshops on making educational videos, the clinical teaching job market, designing a legal clinic, and scholarship support rounded out the conference’s offerings.
Attendees at the session “Helping Ourselves, Helping Our Students: The Challenges and Benefits of Infusing a Social Justice Perspective into Everyday Clinical Teaching.“
The 2017 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education was developed by the Planning Committee, who volunteered countless hours during the past year to organize the conference. The committee included:
Luz E. Herrera, Texas A&M University School of Law
Margaret M. Jackson, University of North Dakota School of Law
Lydia Johnson, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law
Paul Radvany, Fordham University School of Law
Alexander Scherr, University of Georgia School of Law
Robin Walker Sterling, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Carol Suzuki, University of New Mexico School of Law, Chair
AALS thanks the committee for their dedication to making the conference a success.