Unfinished Arcs: Resistance & Resilience Amid Backlash

The 2024 Conference on Clinical Legal Education will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, a city with a rich history of people who have fought for change in the face of discrimination and injustice, from Dred and Harriet Scott in 1846 to the community members who sparked the Ferguson Uprising after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in 2014. Many of those who rose up against injustice knew they would face great personal risk and still pursued their cause. This conference honors this ethos of resistance and resilience and examines our own role as educators and advocates in supporting clients and communities seeking social and legal change.

Ten years after the Ferguson Uprising, the 2024 Clinical Conference will examine what lessons can be drawn from it and other continued efforts to advance and protect the rights of marginalized communities in the face of backlash and retrenchment. The conference invites exploration of how the lessons of the Ferguson Uprising and other moments of resistance can help us teach students about policing, the criminalization and exploitation of poverty, residential segregation, community divestment and investment, the power of protest and grassroots organizing, strategies for engaging with social movements over time, and centering race in advocacy strategies. The conference will also consider how the Ferguson Uprising has shaped our work as clinical teachers. It will examine the skills, strategies, and theories of change, particularly regarding social movements and the role of lawyers, that we must impart to our students. Given the many demands for reform and reimagining that came out of the Ferguson Uprising that have yet to be widely implemented, the conference also seeks to engage in conversations around sustaining and energizing movements in the face of barriers and backlash.

We are in a moment of retrenchment of rights nationally and the spread of new restrictive laws and policies targeting vulnerable groups at the state and local level. The conference will also explore a broader, though connected, theme: how we as teachers, scholars, and advocates advance justice in the face of backlash. The conference invites conversation informed by different teaching models and subject areas on how the non-linear nature of progress impacts our clients, students, and the communities we serve.