Excerpted From: Jon C. Dubin, Faculty Diversity as a Clinical Legal Education Imperative, 51 Hastings Law Journal 445 (2000) (117 Footnotes)(Full Document)


In tJonCDubinhe past two decades, clinical legal education has evolved from a novelty or boutique offering in law school curricula, to a relatively settled and accepted component of the academy. Responding to criticisms of prominent members of the bench and bar about the failure of law schools to prepare law students for the practice of law, American Bar Association accreditation standards now require law schools to offer a course providing "live client" or "real life" experiences and every accredited law school now offers at least one such course. In the same time period, the number of clinical teachers has grown to comprise approximately 12% of all law teachers. While much has been written about the composition of law and university faculties, the value of faculty diversity in university and traditional law school educational settings and proposals for reform, scant attention has been paid to the composition of the increasingly significant cadre of law professors engaging in clinical teaching and scholarship and the educational and social consequences of the demographic distribution of clinical faculty positions. At the Joint Program of the Sections on Clinical Education, Minority Groups and Poverty Law at the 1999 Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting in New Orleans, a lively, provocative and somewhat racially polarized discussion ensued about the clinical faculty hiring process and the obstacles to obtaining diversity. The problem of identifying, confronting and dealing with issues of diversity and difference with respect to clients and students occurs with such frequency in clinical scholarship and in discussions at clinical conferences as to be part of the clinical education "canon" -- to the extent a clinical canon is ascertainable. Nevertheless, what was perhaps unique about the 1999 AALS Joint Program was that it reflected the first time that the clinical section has devoted a program to--in the words of program organizer Professor Paula Johnson--"turning that lens on ourselves" and examining our conscious and unconscious assumptions and values regarding clinical faculty hiring and diversity.

This article explores the issues raised through discussion of clinical diversity at the Joint Program. Part I examines the demographic data on clinical faculty and what those data portend for the "first generation" diversity issue of institutional access and the "second generation" issues of institutional treatment, advancement and acceptance. Those data reveal that the vast majority of law schools have no clinicians of color, there are virtually no policy setting clinical directors of color outside of the historically Black or Puerto Rican law schools, and clinicians of color generally experience lesser job security, lower pay and lesser job perquisites than white clinical faculty.

Part II explores the rationales for diversity in legal education generally and more specifically in clinical legal education programs. Those rationales include recognition of the value of multiperspective, multicultural and cross-cultural lawyering education and scholarship, the promotion of non-discrimination and prevention of discrimination in the academy and the legal profession at large, the benefits to students of color from the presence of mentors and role models of color as the students struggle to acquire a sense of professional identity and survival skills in a discriminatory legal system, and the operational and functional needs of communities of color in developing confidence in and working cooperatively with clinical community legal services providers. The section on non-discrimination includes discussion of some of the potential obstacles to attaining and retaining clinical faculty diversity from the present systems of law faculty personnel decisionmaking. Finally, Part III develops a list of recommendations to ameliorate the problems identified in Part I and to accomplish the purposes set out in Part II.

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There are no ‘quick fixes' or ‘silver bullets' that will promptly rectify the significant underrepresentation of clinicians of color on law school faculties. In the long run, true diversity will only be achieved if those in positions of hiring and promotion authority come to recognize diversity's educational and functional necessity in an increasingly multicultural and global society and in an American polity and legal system so pervasively affected by race. As in other areas of the academy,

The fact remains that hiring practices . . . are still discouraging, and advancement opportunities are limited. These practices can only be reversed by an honest assessment of attitudes and a sincere desire to change negative patterns of behavior. This will take introspection on the part of our . . . membership if we are to see increased diversity in our field in the twenty-first century . . . the surest way to bring about a change of attitudes is the willingness to challenge old patterns of thinking and behavior. Change will come about when groups in control risk sharing it with others different from themselves . . . We have much to gain by embracing newness . . . [We] can only grow from fresh, new, diverse ideas, and individuals.

Professor of Law, Rutgers University School of Law—Newark.