Open to Justice: The Importance of Student Selection Decision in Law School Clinics

24 Clinical Law Review 301, Fall 2017

NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper

26 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2017 Last revised: 26 Jul 2018

Date Written: July 17, 2017


Clinical law professors have engaged in a significant amount of reflection and evaluation of the importance of clinic design, pedagogy, supervision styles, client selection, and case selection, but very little has been written about the significant impact student selection decisions have on the clinical experience and how clinical law professors should assess the applications of students whose fundamental values diverge from those of the clinic. A successful clinical experience is not just about what we are teaching or how we are teaching. Important issues arise when we think about who we are teaching and the context in which we are teaching them. The experiences, perspectives, and attitudes of the students are critical components of any clinical program. Student selection decisions impact the ability to meet the myriad goals of a clinical program, including the educational experience of the other students participating in the program and the quality of representation afforded to clients of that clinic. Our decisions about which students we admit or exclude from a particular clinic raise issues about clinical law professors’ educational obligation to our students and our representational obligations to the clients of the clinic.

As clinical legal education plays an increasing role in legal education, with a broader range of clinical offerings and intensified student interest, we must give greater consideration to the criteria we use to admit students into clinical programs and attend to the risks that divergence of student, clinic, and client values can create. Certainly, some clinical law professors do not believe that law schools should engage in any individualized student selection decisions, and instead encourage open enrollment in clinical programs. However, where student selection models are employed, it should be done with all of a clinic’s goals in mind, rather than isolating the singular goal of providing an opportunity for experiential learning. This essay endeavors to identify some of the challenges clinical law professors face in making student selection determinations that balance the multiple goals of clinical education.

Keywords: Clinic, Clinical education, student, justice, race, social justice, racism, legal education, racial justice

Suggested Citation

Archer, Deborah N., Open to Justice: The Importance of Student Selection Decision in Law School Clinics (July 17, 2017). 24 Clinical Law Review 301, Fall 2017; NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper . Available at SSRN:

Deborah N. Archer (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

United States

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