Conference Theme - AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education

This year’s conference theme is “Fortifying our Foundation and Building for the Future.” As experiential legal educators who teach in-house clinics and externship courses, we find ourselves in volatile times, frequently reacting to stressful external exigencies. This conference seeks to shift our collective gaze inward, to focus on ways we can strengthen ourselves and our community of educators, and prepare for challenges that the new decade may present. Consistent with core clinical habits of introspection and reflection, we will examine ways to bolster the bedrock of our professional work, including our collaborative relationships and instructional approaches. We will also explore ways to fortify ourselves as individuals, with renewed attention to wellness and professional growth.

The Planning Committee invites proposals for 60-minute concurrent sessions, 30-minute lightning sessions, poster presentations, video presentations of up to 15 minutes, and workshops that relate to this general theme or one of the following five subthemes:

  1. Collaboration. Collaboration is key to our individual and collective sustainability, and is often the cornerstone of a stable professional foundation. What are effective models for collaboration across clinics, subject matter areas, and disciplines? How can we promote collaboration and linkages across different types of experiential teaching (e.g., in-house clinics, externships, practica, and simulation courses)? What other types of collaboration might the future require, and how can we begin cultivating those partnerships? 
  2. Foundational and Emerging Lawyering Skills. As clinicians, instruction on lawyering skills is central to our pedagogical project. Moments of introspection and reflection permit us to examine our past practices in this area. How can we enhance our pedagogy vis-a-vis core lawyering skills, such as interviewing, client counseling, case theory development, trial advocacy, and negotiation? As we look to the future, what emerging lawyering skills should we be integrating into our curricula, and how should we teach those skills? How will technology shape both foundational and emerging lawyering skills?
  3. Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Resilience. Given the stressors that we face in the legal profession, wellness is an emerging priority. What are we teaching our students about self-care and mindfulness, and how are incorporating these topics into our courses? What practices should we as clinicians adopt to keep ourselves strong, focused, and intentional in our work? As we prepare ourselves for an uncertain future, how do we develop the quality of resilience – both in ourselves and in our students?
  4. Professional Development. The demands of a clinician’s day-to-day work often leave little time for contemplating and furthering our professional growth. During this conference, we will create space for these conversations. What are best practices for clinicians at different stages in their careers (e.g., fellows, pre-tenure, mid-career, approaching retirement)? What guidance and support can we provide for clinicians who are fighting for more equal status within their institutions? Given law schools’ focus on experiential education, bar passage, and job placement, how can we leverage our strengths as clinicians? Finally, under this rubric, we invite CLE-type presentations that would appeal to colleagues looking to expand their substantive knowledge (e.g., “Immigration Basics for Clinicians”).
  5. Clinics and the Community. Community engagement and the advancement of social justice are often central to our work as clinical legal educators. As we take this moment to reflect, what are some critiques of existing models of community engagement? How do we ensure that our approaches are sustainable? How do we balance responsiveness to community concerns with the need for stability in our teaching? As we look towards an uncertain future, what models of community-based work should we embrace?