The Call for Lawyers Committed to Social Justice to Champion Accessible Legal Services Through Innovative Legal Education
24 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2015 Last revised: 15 Mar 2016
Date Written: October 19, 2015
This paper builds on presentations offered by the authors during a panel at the Society of American Law Teachers 2014 Teaching Conference:
For the law professor committed to social justice, the greatest demand for change should come from within. Indeed, the need to transform legal education most acutely impacts the public served — or often ignored — by the legal profession. This is a truth that can’t be forgotten as law schools explore, promote, and implement changes in legal education. Academic activists should be first in line to lead the way to promote the democratization of both access to law school and access to legal services. Too often, however, law schools and educators replicate the hierarchies that they rail against. The so-called rankings of American law schools have become particularly pernicious, with practices that drive up cost, decrease minority enrollment, and ignore many of the key factors that help law schools cultivate students that will engage in socially responsible lawyering. Rather than run from change, progressive law professors must embrace transformative legal education that promotes access to justice. It is a reflection of the special privilege that runs with being a lawyer.
Part I of this article challenges the elitism entrenched in American legal tradition as a barrier to promoting access to legal education and legal services. It will trace the relationship between more equitable admissions policies and the public good. It will also critique, more generally, the outdated traditions and practices that negatively impact law schools and the public.
In Part II, this article explores one particularly novel approach to expanding the reach of both legal education and the delivery of legal services. Specifically, this part of the article will examine the rise of the limited license legal technician — a first in Washington State — as one possible solution. It will explore the ways law professors can shape and support this change as a means of closing the “justice gap” through this controversial and novel effort.
In Part III, this article will call for more aggressive exploration of how legal education is delivered, and to whom it is delivered. Shortened terms, online/live hybrid models, and training for paralegals are just some of the options under consideration. Already, several law schools have started to experiment with the American law school experience. These new pressures to transform legal education brings both new opportunities, risks, and rewards. Most importantly, it gives law professors with a passion for justice the chance to champion the reform in legal education with a commitment to promote social justice. Truly innovative legal education will improve the law school experience and help close the justice gap for Americans.
Keywords: legal education, legal technician, LLLT, access to justice, justice gap
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