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Creating My Client's Image: Is Case Theory Value Neutral in Public Benefits Cases?

43 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2008 Last revised: 13 Jun 2011

Spencer Rand

Temple University - Beasley School of Law


Effective case theory demands that an attorney consider with the client the way that pursuing the theory comports with the client's self-image. This is particularly evident in public benefit cases as they are very value laden. Benefits are doled out using a two-tier system of social insurance and public assistance depending on whether we favor the reason that help is sought. People categorized as having personal traits leading to their need, like old age, blindness, and disability, benefit from our FICA social insurance system, getting higher benefits and having their welfare marketed as a pension with little stigma. People who are unemployed long term or just need help to support their families do not benefit from the FICA system, even if they have paid into it. They are confined to our public assistance system with fewer benefits and the stigma of welfare. Many people do not want to see themselves or be seen as getting welfare. Case theories that push people to into the social insurance or public assistance system fail when they do not consider this factor.

This article uses the public benefits case to suggest a teaching a method for creating effective case theories that recognizes the need to determine if self-image is at issue for the client. Students study master narratives developed around legal issues. The master narrative surrounding public benefits is gone into in some detail. Students also study community narratives or alternative narratives that could influence personal narratives in the stories and decision making of their clients. After doing so, students are to listen for these narratives and personal narratives of their clients to develop effective case theories for their cases that comport with their client's self-image.

Keywords: narrative, master narrative, counter narrative, case theory, self-image, poverty, clinic, clinical, deserving poor, public benefits, welfare, health insurance, TANF, SSI, Social Security, disability

JEL Classification: K10, K40, E62, E24

Suggested Citation

Rand, Spencer, Creating My Client's Image: Is Case Theory Value Neutral in Public Benefits Cases?. Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 28, 2008; NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 08/09 #14; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-13. Available at SSRN:

Spencer Rand (Contact Author)

Temple University - Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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