Redemptive Lawyering: The First (and Missing) Half of Legal Education and Law Practice
23 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 10, 2010
I have found over the years that law students instinctively sense that something fundamental is missing in legal education and law practice. They seem to ask: "Where is the rest of my attorney role? Where is the part where I show others how to shore up the ‘front-end' of day-to-day social interaction and community building so that there are fewer matters to construct and process using formal legal skills on the ‘back-end’? Who are we as lawyers before we are reduced to ‘second-half’ problem solvers?”
The current obstacle to such experimentation with the lawyer role is that legal education and law practice do little to fulfill attorneys as complete people. Once people are convinced that attorneys can and ought to enter the picture much sooner to redeem people and not simply solve problems, society can expect legal professionals to address the underlying source of so many difficulties – the lack of recognition of the inherent value and worth of supportive relationships – and not merely treat the latest symptoms.
This article explains how this can and does already happen in law school classes and clinical experiences. In Part II, I discuss how legal education can promote redemptive lawyering. To that end, I describe two in-class exercises that enable law students to recognize and correct their gross under-utilization of the gifts brought to legal study and the practice of law: the Updated Personal Statement exercise and the Selection of Team Field Projects. These exercises, along with the clinical skill of critical reflection that is introduced at the same time, provide a pattern for students to follow as they serve as "first-half" redemptive lawyers, improving community life inside the classroom, throughout the law school, and in the neighborhood.
In Part III there is an extended account illustrating first-half lawyering in action, from clumsy missteps on the part of the students, to amazing personal and social progress on everyone's part.
There is no escaping the urgent need to address the alienation most Americans feel in relation to the legal system in general and lawyers in particular. All law schools should be duty bound to teach creative ways that lawyers can employ to decrease the demand for legal services – e.g., by getting involved beforehand and practicing redemptive lawyering, thereby helping the people themselves construct inexpensive, user-friendly methods for consensus building as the first option.
Keywords: Redemptive lawyering, legal education, law and society, redemption, problem-solving, relationships
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