More than 1150 legal educators registered to attend the virtual 2022 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education from May 9 – 12, 2022. The meeting’s theme, “Lawyering with Creativity and for Equity,” encouraged clinical lawyers to blend subjects to incorporate new teachings and ideas to advance the experiential learning experience.
“The theme united three concepts in clinical legal education,” said Carwina Weng (Indiana University Maurer School of Law), chair of the conference planning committee. “What we teach students is lawyering; why we teach is so that they can become lawyers who strive for equity on a systemic level and to be antiracist on an individual level; how we teach is with creativity so that our students might experience equity in the classroom, engage with their whole person, and carry their experiences and knowledge with them long after their field placement and clinic has finished. In addition, because clinics and field placements provide potent opportunities for students to engage in real world learning, the academy situates more requirements in these courses, and it takes greater creativity from clinicians to hew to their learning goals.”
The event featured more than 350 speakers and over 150 sessions covering various topics, including effective teaching, scholarship, and working with adjunct faculty. The conference also had several sessions on domestic violence, non-lawyer legal service programs, restorative justice, anti-surveillance advocacy, and antitrust. The program was designed to help generate ideas for designing classroom environments for equity, student engagement, and high impact learning as well as a deeper understanding of equity and anti-racism as both skills and values.
“The conference is our community’s signature event,” Weng said. “This is a chance to welcome new members, to celebrate our members’ accomplishments, and to share and further develop ideas for teaching content and pedagogy. That the conference is in its 5th decade reflects the growth and desire for inclusivity of our community.”
On Monday, the conference kicked off with a Workshop for New Law School Clinical Teachers. The workshop aims to help new clinical law teachers grow by offering them insight into experiential teaching and meeting their peers. Programs included experiential course design & structure, navigating legal academia, and incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion principles in experiential programs.
On Tuesday, the conference opened with a plenary session, “Creating for Equity & Access to Justice” creative design experts provide insight into their work to advance access to justice and shared examples of their work. It was moderated by Sherley Cruz (University of Tennessee College of Law) and featured Dr. Christine Marie Ortiz Guzman (Equity Meets Design) and Jonathan Askin (Brooklyn Law School). The day concluded with a poetry reading from acclaimed poet, Hieu Minh Nguyen.
On Wednesday, Bernice Grant, Senior Director of the Entrepreneurial Law Program at Fordham University School of Law, received the 2021 Shanara Gilbert Award during an awards ceremony. The honor from the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education recognizes an outstanding clinician with less than 10 years of experience in the field. In addition, the section’s Steve Ellmann Memorial Clinical Scholarship Award was presented to Professor Lisa E. Brodoff, (Seattle University School of Law). The award recognized career achievement in clinical legal education scholarship and was established in 2020 to honor the legacy of Steve Ellmann (New York Law School).
On Thursday, the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) honored Ian Weinstein (Fordham University School of Law) and Sheila Bedi (Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law) as the 2022 Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Education. The Cornell Death Penalty Clinic and Maine Refugee and Human Rights Clinic was given CLEA’s 2022 Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project. Also, the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative’s Ambassadors for Racial Justice Program received an Honorable mention for their work.
On Thursday afternoon, the plenary session, “Seizing the Moment,” clinical law professors shared intersectional personal and professional experiences rethinking equity in practice and policy. It was moderated by Britney Wilson (New York Law School) and featured Lydia X. Z. Brown (Center for Democracy & Technology), Alexi Freeman (University of Denver Sturm College of Law), and Angela Winfield (Law School Admission Council). The day concluded with presentations from the 2022 Bellow Scholars, who provided updates on their research projects.
The conference also featured works-in-progress focused on topics including access to justice, children and youth, criminal law and procedure, disability rights, federal court procedure, housing, immigration, pedagogy, and start-ups.
The Planning Committee also arranged informal community-building programs. These programs are to expand on the usual in-person working group sessions organized by practice area or affinity. Previously, clinicians of similar teaching backgrounds would gather to discuss their shared experiences in the working groups. This year the informal community-building programs were not limited to clinician’s practice areas. These program topics include criminal defense clinics, entrepreneurship clinics, advising nonprofits, appellate clinics, community lawyering clinics, and student evaluations.
Though the conference sessions were held virtually, conference attendees did meet in-person for informal networking events in cities like Washington, DC.
“The planning committee asked the clinical section leadership to sponsor in-person gatherings to complement the virtual programs,” Weng said. “We wanted ways for clinicians to engage with each other and the ideas that the conference was presenting.”
The 2022 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education was developed by the Planning Committee and included:
- Alexi Freeman, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
- Gautam Hans, Vanderbilt University Law School
- Karl S. Okamoto, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law
- Margaret E. (Meg) Reuter, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
- Kele Stewart, University of Miami School of Law
- Carwina Weng, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Chair
AALS thanks the committee for making the conference such a success.