Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2016

Abstract

As scholars and administrators look to experiential learning and clinical education specifically to cultivate practice-ready law school graduates there is worry amongst some clinicians that they must sanitize the experiential learning experience of its social justice bent, or at the very least dilute it, so as to make it marketable to the legal academy and the "typical" enrolled, or enrolling, law student. On the other hand, the time is particularly ripe for clinicians to recommit to clinical legal education's social justice roots and remind the academy that social justice skills are relevant, transferable, and effective in preparing students for rigorous (but also humane and sustained) legal practice.

Too often conversations such as these are framed as a debate: skills training versus social justice. This Article takes an alternative approach by insisting instead that the timeworn skills versus social justice debate misses an obvious point: clinical education's social justice mission can be advanced by developing the skills dimension of social justice education. This Article, therefore, intentionally blurs the line between social justice education and skills education. Social justice is defined herein as having a skills dimension; meanwhile, the skills featured are described in a manner that demonstrates how they are enriched by contextualizing them in social justice.

A starting premise is that social justice education is imperative for any institution wishing to act in accordance with our professional standards. A concluding sentiment is that training students in social justice skills meets many pedagogical goals for a varied student body. The framework that moves the Article from the starting premise to the pedagogical conclusions rejects a common approach to social justice in clinics: teaching skills alone while supposing that the client or project experience will provide the conversion moment. Rather, the proposed framework separates the curriculum into themes of client awareness, self-awareness, and systems awareness and developing an integrated presentation of the social justice imperatives and the essential skills within each category.

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