By Matthew Gonzalez 

More than 800 legal educators attended this spring’s AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education, April 27-30, 2023 in San Francisco. The meeting’s theme, “Hope as a Discipline,” focused discussions and programming on the contemporary challenges threatening democracy and society and how this moment can be used as an opportunity to address injustices in a transformative way.

“The unprecedented number of attendees at this conference signifies just how much we have missed each other, and how important it is to connect and reconnect in person,” said conference Planning Committee chair Carrie L. Hempel (University of California, Irvine School of Law).

The biannual AALS Clinical and Experiential Law Program Directors Workshop took place on Thursday, April 27, immediately before the conference. The workshop featured sessions on serving as an advocate within legal institutions, advancing experiential programs while honoring the past, and building spaces and resources to creatively impact experiential education.

  • Crowd of standing attendees
  • Carrie Hempel stands at a podium
  • woman speaks at podium
  • Group of people milling around a receiption

Thursday evening, the conference officially opened with poster presentations.

Friday morning started with a welcome from AALS Deputy Director Alena M. Allen (incoming dean of Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center) followed by an introduction by Hempel who welcomed international clinical colleagues in attendance from Australia, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

The conference’s plenary session “Teaching Radical Hope” featured renowned scholar of African American and United States history and former Guggenheim Fellow Robin D.G. Kelley (University of California, Los Angeles) and activist, author, and lawyer Derecka Purnell. The session was moderated by Norrinda Hayat (Fordham University School of Law).


The conference luncheon and awards ceremony on Saturday honored several faculty members and clinics for their distinguished careers and considerable accomplishments:

The Shanara Gilbert Award, honoring an outstanding clinician with less than 10 years of experience in the field, was presented to Kate Mogulescu (Brooklyn Law School).

The Ellmann Memorial Award for Clinical Scholarship was presented to Colleen Shanahan (Columbia Law School) and Anna Carpenter (University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law).

The William Pincus Award for outstanding contributions to clinical legal education was given posthumously to J.L. Pottenger, Jr. (Yale Law School), and accepted by his wife and daughter.

The Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) honored Deborah Archer (New York University School of Law) as the 2023 Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Education.

The Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law was given CLEA’s 2023 Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project.


Over the three days of the conference, more than 350 speakers and 100 sessions covered a broad range of topics from fostering community and engaging in effective collaborations to teaching foundational and new lawyering skills, professional development, and promoting wellness. Current Bellow Scholars also delivered their annual research presentations and received feedback from conference attendees and program advisors.

Reflecting on the 45th year of the conference, Hempel said, “We hope attendees leave this conference inspired and energized to embrace and develop the concept of ‘hope as a discipline’ in the important work we do, to create a more joyful, sustainable, and humane world.”

The 2023 AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education Planning Committee included:

  • Ty Alper, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Christine N. Cimini, University of Washington School of Law
  • Norrinda Brown Hayat, Fordham University School of Law
  • Carrie L. Hempel, University of California, Irvine School of Law, Chair
  • Serge Martinez, University of New Mexico School of Law
  • June T. Tai, University of Iowa College of Law
  • Erika K. Wilson, University of North Carolina School of Law

AALS thanks the committee for making the conference a success.