"Clinical Education, Service, and Racial Justice are at the Core of our Mission..."
Friday, October 18, 2013
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
Members of the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law faculty shared this letter with their clinical teaching colleagues nationally via listserv today:
This year's U.S. News and World Report Peer Assessment Survey has arrived. Although many of us are frustrated with this ranking system, we nevertheless recognize that it can have significant effects. In this regard, we appreciate and endorse the suggestion by the CLEA Ranking Committee that people support in the ranking process law schools that incorporate clinical education as an integral part of their program and provide for a secure and diverse clinical faculty. We are taking the liberty of reaching out via this listserv to let you know of our commitment to clinical education and to achieving justice.
Every student at the University of the District of Columbia - including our Evening Division (i.e., part-time) students -- has two mandatory, seven-credit clinics. Many students here do more than fourteen credits in clinic. We also offer an LL.M program, in which students earn a degree in Clinical Teaching, Social Justice, and System Change.
Clinical education, service, and racial justice are at the core of our mission, as expressed in our statutory enabling act, which requires us to "recruit and enroll students from groups under-represented at the bar, provide a well-rounded theoretical and practical legal education that will enable students to be effective and ethical advocates, and represent the legal needs of low-income District of Columbia residents through the school's legal clinics."
We seek to satisfy those aspirations in every facet of our program, not just in the clinics. By keeping tuition low -- $11,000 for local residents and $22,000 for out-of-staters -- we encourage students from low-income backgrounds to attend law school. (With lower debt, graduates are in a better position to become public interest and poverty lawyers.) Our application essay -- "write about an injustice you have experienced" -- sends a message to applicants about our priorities. Entering students' first contact with the law school is a course on Law and Justice, taught by Edgar Cahn, who (with his late wife, Jean Camper Cahn) founded Antioch School of Law, our predecessor law School, and who were instrumental in the creation of the federal legal services program. First-year students are required to do forty hours of work in the community. We fund every student who wants a post-1L summer public interest fellowship. The porous boundaries between the clinical- and non-clinical offerings have led to strong practicum-based courses, including a service-learning course rooted in legal issues brought to the fore by Hurricane Katrina.
As at your law schools, our clinics cover a wide range of subject areas, and unleash our students to deliver important results for low-income clients. In just the past twelve months, U.D.C. clinical students have won two child welfare cases in the D.C. Court of Appeals, kept children in school rather than in jail, kept families in their homes rather than on the streets, created wealth and stabilized housing for other families, written legislation enacted into law, protected low-income taxpayers from undue burdens, prevented deportations, and protected whistleblowers whose courageous truths saved lives and monies.
We are able to implement the mission because of the commitment of administrators, staff, faculty, and the most diverse student body in the country. Our Dean, Shelley Broderick, taught clinic for years and, like Edgar Cahn, is a Pincus Award winner. Our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Laurie Morin, is a long-time clinician. Our non-clinical faculty is, for the most part, indistinguishable from our clinical faculty. They have written significant legislation and have represented large numbers of low-income clients and civil rights clients; they continue to work hard to make real change.
We urge you to demonstrate to law school administrators that they should make an even greater commitment to clinic. By ranking the University of the District of Columbia (David A. Clarke School of Law) highly in the U.S News and World Report survey, you will help create leverage for prioritizing clinics and for making clinic mandatory at all law schools.