Wednesday, April 18, 2007

WIP: This week

Poor people are not well served by the kind of advocacy currently taught and reinforced in most law school clinics. The spread and expansion of law school clinics has been driven by two main justifications: preparation for practice and community service. Clinical legal scholars have, in turn, reflected and promoted a paradigm of practice rooted in client-centeredness. This paradigm offers a pedagogical system to underlie the experiential and service goals of law school clinics and also reinforces a governing form of practice in all sectors of the legal profession, including public interest law. This article argues that client-centeredness and its pedagogical correlates – simulation-based skills training and a nearly exclusive focus on the relationship between a single lawyer and a single client – is not sufficient to sustain effective public interest practice. The context of public interest practice has shifted because of the erosion of the regulatory state, the turn to market-based approaches to poverty and community development, and the infusion of immigrants into the low-wage agricultural and services sectors of the American economy. In addition to more traditional law reform activities, public interest lawyers must now participate in efforts to mobilize people to fight for their interests, particularly in the absence of protections once offered by the state. Client-centeredness relies on a practice narrative that does not accurately portray the reality of public interest practice in this moment and is, therefore, inadequate preparation for public interest practice. Law school clinics driven by a social justice mission can play a key role in public interest practice by participating in mobilization efforts, supporting and stimulating democratic resistance to market forces, and developing newer forms of practice to advance these goals. This shift in clinical focus is an important element in the preparation of students entering public interest practice.


lostandfound said...

this is excellent. i like it. is this part of an existing article?

lbc said...

Thanks. It's part of a draft that I first wrote in October 2005 for a conference and have developed in fits and starts since then. I recently re-wrote the intrduction (from which this is excerpted) based on advice from a colleague and use of a program called Freemind, which is a freeware tool to organize brainstorming. Now I have to write and re-write the rest of the piece! I'm hoping positive feedback (or just critical engagement with the thesis) will induce me to finish the piece, which has been hanging over my head for too long.