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The Pedagogy of Innocence: Reflection on the Role of Innocence Projects in Clinical Legal Education

Clinical Law Review, Forthcoming

NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 06/07-5

49 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2006  

Keith A. Findley

University of Wisconsin Law School


The service and policy missions of innocence projects have received considerable scholarly attention. Relatively little, however, has been written about the pedagogical mission of innocence projects as law school clinical programs. This article examines the pedagogical challenges and opportunities presented by clinical programs that investigate and litigate large, complex innocence cases. First, the article analyzes what innocence projects can and should teach law students, including lessons about facts and investigation skills; about the need for thoroughness and skepticism, and what that means in practice; about essential values of the profession, and about the risk that the narrow focus on representing only the innocent might convey unintended messages about the value of legal representation to all criminal defendants; about ethics; about doctrine and a critical perspective of legal institutions; and, finally, about judgment. Second, the article considers how innocence projects might meet those educational objectives. Among other things, the article probes how innocence projects - and other similar large-case clinical programs - can manage the traditional tensions between the goal of nondirective student supervision, including the need to allow students to gain ownership of their cases, and the responsibility of ensuring quality representation to the clients in these complex cases, in which so much is at stake.

Keywords: pedagogy, innocence projects, clinical education, large-case clinical programs

Suggested Citation

Findley, Keith A., The Pedagogy of Innocence: Reflection on the Role of Innocence Projects in Clinical Legal Education. Clinical Law Review, Forthcoming; NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 06/07-5. Available at SSRN:

Keith A. Findley (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-262-4763 (Phone)
608-263-3380 (Fax)


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