Fostering Justice Throughout the Curriculum
Linda F. Smith
University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law
February 4, 2011
Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Vol. 18, 2011
University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 11
While clinics and pro bono programs are the primary ways in which law schools foster justice and public service, they should not carry this burden alone. Issues of public service, law reform and access to justice should be fully incorporated into the law school experience so that each student understands and becomes committed to becoming a "public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice." This article presents a number of approaches to foster justice and public service throughout the curriculum. The required course in the Legal Profession or Professional Responsibility must cover lawyers’ obligations to perform pro bono service, to act to reform the law and to ensure equal access to justice. Other substantive courses might expand their coverage so students learn the law needed for public service and understand the need for law reform. Skills courses and competitions should include problems affecting the neediest. Both types of classes should begin to support experiential components in which students serve, learn and reflect upon these experiences. The scholarly mission of the law school also should include these values through presenting issues of access to justice and public service in scholarly colloquia and including community based research in conjunction with classes, in seminars, in think tanks, and as special projects. Although clinical programs have provided the major window to these issues, we should act to maximize the potential of the clinical program by including institutional critique and law reform. Finally, pro bono programs, too, can be improved by including reflection and greater faculty involvement. Taking these steps will address our ethical responsibilities as law teachers and may ameliorate the negative effects law school has been found to have on students’ motivation to pursue public interest careers and pro bono work.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: pro bono, public interest, ethics, public service, professional responsibility, law reform, clinical, experiential education
Date posted: February 10, 2011 ; Last revised: March 26, 2013
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