How do we build the next generation of lawyer leaders when our students have grown up in an era of strong division, attacks on institutions of government, and the frequent rejection of civil discourse? This year’s conference will focus on the unique challenges our students face as future lawyers and leaders in a highly polarized world.

Today, we and our students are confronted with threats to virtually every norm in the legal and political world –the environment we live in, a free press, election integrity, judicial independence, standards of respectful debate, facts, the rule of law. Our students appear energized and anxious to take this on, but what new tools and opportunities should clinical legal education be providing? What improvements can we make to current teaching techniques? As legal educators, we must equip our students with creativity, judgement, and a toolbox of knowledge, skills, and values that will enable the coming generation to meet these unprecedented challenges.

Accordingly, specific questions we will address in our plenaries, workgroups, and concurrent sessions include:

  1. Who are our students? Why are they in law school? How do we approach teaching students who may feel under attack by our institutions—e.g. students of color, LGBTQ+, undocumented students/families, students with disabilities, politically conservative or liberal students, formerly incarcerated students? How do we support those who are feeling isolated or threatened at school and in society at large while still teaching them the skills they need to address the issues?
  2. What are the causes of the current polarization and its impact on our students and us? How do we support and teach our students without causing further harm?
  3. Are different skills and values needed to face the challenges of polarization? Or do we shift priorities within the myriad skills and values we currently teach?
  4. How do we approach teaching fact development in a time of “alternative facts”?
  5. How does civility fit in to our teaching? Do we define civility differently in a polarized and hot political environment? What, if any, are the boundaries of civility in an age when many leaders are breaking prior norms? When might civility run counter to effective advocacy?
  6. Are there polarizations and factions within the clinical education community and legal education generally that detract from our students’ learning and that we need to proactively address—e.g. clinic vs. externship, transactional vs. litigation, big cases vs. small cases, social justice mission vs. technical lawyering skills? How can we best model integration and teamwork for our students in our own teaching communities?
  7. What are the impacts/uses/dangers/advantages of social media in teaching client advocacy in a polarized world?
  8. What and how do we teach about our institutions to a generation of students raised during a time when each has been under attack?

This year’s conference has a new format for concurrent sessions, designed to allow for more opportunities to exchange concrete ideas and to mingle and get to know new colleagues. Concurrent session will be shorter—45 minutes each with 15-minute breaks between sessions. There will also be more concurrent sessions. The conference will also offer 20-minute “lightning” sessions.

We will provide opportunities for play and creativity with art and music, to help bring us together and to make new friends and colleagues along the way. We will bring in educators from other disciplines to help us look at our teaching opportunities through different and diverse lenses. We hope this exciting and thought-provoking conference will inspire you to new creative and scholarly heights!

2019 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education Planning Committee

Alina Ball, University of California, Hastings College of the Law
Lisa Brodoff, Seattle University School of Law, Chair
Lisa Martin, University of South Carolina School of Law
David Moss, Wayne State University Law School
Carol Suzuki, University of New Mexico School of Law
Mary Tate, University of Richmond School of Law
Carwina Weng, Indiana University Maurer School of Law