A Theory-Practice Spiral: The Ethics of Feminism and Clinical Education

103 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2005

See all articles by Phyllis Goldfarb

Phyllis Goldfarb

George Washington University Law School


Should law school classes cultivate professional skills or should they advance a broad intellectual agenda? This Article examines the relationship between theory and practice from the standpoint of two movements within law's academy: clinical education and feminist jurisprudence. Although the former is often thought of as a practical movement and the latter a theoretical movement, the Author's intention is to demonstrate the fundamental methodological similarity of the two movements, and hence, the problematic nature of the theory-practice label. Further, this Article examines the ethical impulse that sparks clinical education and feminism, suggesting that each movement's perceptions of the theory-practice relationship are embedded in ethical concerns and have far reaching ethical implications.

Section I of this Article begins with the reading of a text from the perspective of each of these intellectual movements. Section II examines more specifically the respective ways that feminist and clinical educators describe and justify their choice of methods. Section III surveys the similarities and differences between the methodologies of the two movements. This leads, in Section IV, to an analysis of the implications for clinical education if it drew more explicitly from feminist methods, the implications for feminist jurisprudence if it drew more explicitly from clinical methods, and the implications for legal education if it drew more explicitly from each. Section IV concludes with an exploration of how recasting our understanding of the theory-practice relationship also recasts our understanding of ethics and ethical inquiry.

Keywords: Clinical education, feminist jurisprudence, theory-practice relationship, legal education

Suggested Citation

Goldfarb, Phyllis, A Theory-Practice Spiral: The Ethics of Feminism and Clinical Education. Boston College Law Research Paper No. 1990-01, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=749365

Phyllis Goldfarb (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202.994.7463 (Phone)

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