Legal Affairs Debate Club on Law School Clinics:

A couple weeks back I posted on Heather McDonald's City Journal article on Law School Clinics. This week she has been debating Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., in the Legal Affairs Debate Club on the question, "Should Law Schools Abandon Clinics?"

Bob Bobstein (mail):
She steadfastly refuses to provide specifics. Maybe clinics disproportionately support left-wing causes and maybe they don't; it's an empirical claim, and she just doesn't have the facts to back it up. It's plausible bomb-tossing, not serious debate.

Also, Todd, her name is spelled "Mac Donald."
2.1.2006 9:51am
Stephen M (Ethesis) (www):
I'd suggest that clinics be paired with paraclinical education.

see, e.g.
2.1.2006 9:54am
I know the boys of Volokh lean right of the political spectrum. But, isn't it kind of beneath you to promote a "debate" when the right wing side of it engages in political hackery? I disagree with most of your posts and/or links, but the McDonald scrap was way too lame to merit a dignified afterthought.
2.1.2006 10:08am
ThirdCircuitLawyer (mail):

Todd provided a link; he didn't say that MacDonald had the better argument.
2.1.2006 10:12am

To be fair LLVR isn't objecting to Todd's support of MacDonald's argument, but to his merely bringing attention to the debate.

I guess this is one of those topics LeftLeaning people consider closed to debate.
2.1.2006 10:36am
Justin (mail):
After "should liberals abandon Roe v. Wade" (and this is spoken as a liberal opponent of the holding), and "should law schools abandon legal clinics", I'm just waiting for the next legal debate, "Should we repeal the Bill of Rights (except for the 2nd, and the 1st in regards to corporate campaign donations?)"
2.1.2006 10:44am
anonymous coward:
I'd expect lefties to welcome linking this rather embarassing (for Heather Mac Donald) debate.
2.1.2006 10:44am
Justin (mail):
Okay, I've now read the argument. Heather MacDonald is indeed making a fabulous case.

That case, (un)fortuantely, is to defund the Olin Fellowship.
2.1.2006 10:49am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
Sullivan suggests doing empirical research, but it seems to me such a quest would be impossible. How would one classify whether a clinic is engaged in leftist work, neutral work, or right-wing work?

Regardless, he is making rather scurrilous accusations against Mac Donald, saying that she doesn't want a broader view of clinics represented, she just wants the ones that she would agree with. But she never said such thing. In fact, from the debate, it is pretty clear that she is merely deriding the lack of diversity in the clinics. She may be wrong as a matter of fact, but she is clearly not saying that what Sullivan is accusing her of saying.
2.1.2006 10:54am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
That case, (un)fortuantely, is to defund the Olin Fellowship.

Well, if you are funding people to do partisan activities, you don't necessarily want to produce the finest scholarship; you want to get your views widely heard and treated as respectable and/or mainstream. Mission accomplished. Mac Donald would lose this debate if it were a high school debate tournament, but who's to say she won't prevail as a matter of policy?
2.1.2006 10:58am
At Columbia Law School, I don't think that the clinics are "liberal" in any way.
My problem with them is that people use them for easy grade inflation. A student can sign up for 2 hard courses, and study and work hard 5-6 days a week for a chance to get an 'A' in both courses. Alternatively, he can sign up for a clinic, and get an automatic 7-8 credits worth of 'A' for working 1 day a week. It's ridiculous.
2.1.2006 11:13am

If empirical research is close to impossible, then isn't it the same statement that anyone who attacks the lack of balance at law school is using anecdotal and piecemeal evidence to impute a generalized argument on the whole? And, it does seem pretty clear to me that MacDonald wants a specific clinical curriculum by the done of her "debate."

ps. I do believe clinics should be broader (generally agreement with MacDonald, but with different motivations). But, it shouldn't have to be a debate on what the clinics have to pick and choose. Rather, (and the financially unlikely) the debate should be on expanding clinical education in lieu of the waste of time we call 3L. Furthermore, shouldn't the debate be within each law school themselves? I find it difficult to impute a national standard onto lawschools, each with their diverse underpinnings.
2.1.2006 11:18am
Justin (mail):

For Kent Scholar purposes, they only count as one class, same as a seminar or Fed Courts. After that, I just don't think a Stone Scholarship in one's second or third year is *particularly* impressive (sure, it's nice, esp. if you made Stone first year), and any prospective employer reading the transcript realizes the value (or lack thereof) of the clinic grade.

Of the appellate clerks from Columbia my graduating year, most of them did not do clinics, for what it's worth.
2.1.2006 11:37am
Why not look at it from a market forces perspective? Assuming for the sake of argument that MacDonald's thesis is more true than not (and I don't know the numbers), is it possible that the distribution of clinics represents a response to student demand? Maybe there aren't many transactional clinics because most law students see themselves as trial lawyers, doing what they see lawyers do on TV and in the news. Nobody glorifies transactional law. I participated in a State Atty clinic, and here I am a year later doing 90% transactional real estate.
2.1.2006 11:56am
Gene, it wouldn't be hard to do empirical research into what clinics are actually doing. MacDonald makes all these unsupported assertions of fact -- clinics don't represent small businesses, they don't represent crime victims -- that are easily verifiable and are not (at Yale at least) actually true.
2.1.2006 12:02pm
Mr Diablo:
I thought we settled this two weeks ago... her study and analysis are shoddy, real crap, and she clearly did no research.

She would lose a debate with a human-animal hybrid.
2.1.2006 12:11pm
cdow (mail):
I would like to point out that Mr. Zywicki's employer, George Mason Law School, resisted instituting legal clinics until 8 years ago or so. It finally did so as a result of popular student demand, and, I think, to appeal to potential applicants. The clinics, which include a regular clinic for low-income littigants, a mental illness clinic, and a free-market oriented public interest littigation clinic, have received a very favorable response. e the aopportunity to practice their skills in the latter half of law school, so even law schoolos with conservative or libvertariuan leanings like George Mason are not immune to the popular demands of students for legal clinics.
2.1.2006 12:15pm
Clinics do a lot of good things. The one in my town represents low income consumers in their disagreements with rapacious corporate America. I'm sure McDonald in her ivory tower doesn't have much experience with rapacious corporate America, but many low income consumers (like my son, for instance) certainly do.

If McDonald wants clinic students to represent low income parents wanting school choice, perhaps the answer is not to defund or eliminate law clinics, but instead to try to infiltrate them, or fund an alternative clinic of the local left wing legal academia has an iron grip on the existing clinic. Most big cities have multiple law schools - I'm sure right wing academia could find at least one of them in each town to push its causes.

Unless its cause is "we don't want people without money to get legal advice, because we don't want them to assert any rights." I hope that's not the true agenda behind McDonald's article (and the Olin Foundation's stance), but I have my suspicions.
2.1.2006 12:19pm
anonymous coward:
If Mac Donald or someone else ever does adequate empirical work on legal clinics, it might be interesting to compare the clinical work to the beneficiaries of pro bono work at big law firms.

I expect we'd find some of the same "biases" at work there, too--which might indicate this is really about what lawyers, not just the legal academy, believe is important.
2.1.2006 12:28pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
I'm sure Mac Donald's research is terrible and her conclusions are false. Just for fun, however, why doesn't someone give JUST ONE EXAMPLE of a clinic funding one of the activities she complains go unfunded.
2.1.2006 12:36pm
Is this the same Heather Mac Donald who responded to Marty Lederman's article on torture, to whom he then responded, comletely annihilating her response? If so, I don't intend to read anything she writes, as she is entirely discredited in my opinion.

I find her mindset very similar to that of John Yoo's, so spending time reading anything by her would not be a priority of mine.

Justin, you say you are a liberal critic of Roe. What does that mean? Are you against abortions, or do you just think that case was badly decided from a legal point of view?
2.1.2006 12:38pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
It seems to me that empirical research on legal clinics' political biases would be slightly different than empirical research on those of legal faculty's. The latter could be evaluated by say, looking at party registration, donations to candidates, etc., whereas clinics would have to be evaluated based on the cases that they take, which seems more subjective.

The question is not whether people ought receive free legal representation or not. The question, I think, is whether law clinics in public law schools ought to be allowed to have an explicitly ideological bent, epsecially in their choice of what kinds of cases to take. It seems that it's a problem if the taxpayers are forced to fund clinics that help employees file workers comp. claims against their employers but not small business defend themselves against spurious workers comp. claims (of which there are many).

Other clinics, even at public universities, engage in express political advocacy, even. While Mac Donald might have poor research, I think that even a prima facie case can legitimately be made that taxpayers ought not have to fund legal clinics that have viewpoint bias in the kinds of cases they take.
2.1.2006 12:43pm

If you read the debate that is the subject of this comment thread, you will see two such examples in one (famously liberal) law school alone:

1) MacDonald complains that clinics don't do "for-profit counseling" but Yale's most popular clinic is 50% for-profit counseling.

2) MacDonald complains that clinics don't represent victims but Yale has a clinic devoted to representing victims of domestic violence.

At Yale, you'll also see:

3) a prosecution clinic, which existed BEFORE the criminal defense clinic, such that for many years we did prosecution but not criminal defense.
2.1.2006 12:43pm
Justin (mail):
My moral position is agnostic on abortions. The whole situation comes down to whether a fetus, for lack of a better term, has a "soul" or not.

My legal position is fairly specific. I think Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided because I believe the Constitution does not commit us to a liberterian form of government. However, as a left-liberterian, I of course believe that government shouldn't outlaw something unless either a) it's external effects are significantly harmful (which is why I support, for instance, smoking bans in order to protect bartenders and waiters, as well as state health care coffers), or b) near-unanimous rejection of the validity of the action (this is why I think it's proper that gay marriage be permitted and polygamy not be permitted).

We don't ban something because a slight majority morally disapproves, enforcing its will upon a slight minority. So in my view, abortion should remain legal regardless of my personal view on the issue. But I think that's a good-governance concept, not a constitutional one. If state governments (but NOT CONGRESS, who lacks the authority under Article I) want to violate that concept, then the experimentalist framework of federalism should permit them to make such a mistake.
2.1.2006 12:57pm
nunzio (mail):
Law clinics are a good idea. The only problem is that they have the threshold income level too low. In decent-sized cities, even bad lawyers are relatively expensive ($75-100 hour), so if you need to get divorced or have a child custody dispute it can cost you several grand. There's also some sole proprietors or very small businesses that need help too (some clinics do provide small businesses with help for a pretty reasonable fee of $50 an hour).
2.1.2006 1:02pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
AF --

1) My understanding of the "for-profit" work was that it was not done for low-income clients, but rather for high-income clients.

2) Mac Donald says that the "domestic violence" clinic has a feminist agenda, and isn't really concerned about the victims of violence. Does it help victims of non-domestic violence? Does it help men who are assaulted by their wives? Does it help people who are falsely accused of domestic violence?

3) Does the prosecution clinic work for victims of crime who are having trouble getting the government to prosecute, including cases where there is not a left-wing political agenda?

Mac Donald's point is that these clinics have a strong left wing agenda; this agenda may sometimes do good, but there is a lot of other good that they go out of their way not to do.

Lacking statistics, I would not have an opinion on this, were it not for reading the comments here. After reading here about "rapacious corporate America", and reading all the attacks on Mac Donald herself, and seeing NOT ONE (as nearly as I can tell) clearcut example of a clinic whose lack she complains about, I'm tempted to give her the benefit of the doubt.
2.1.2006 1:20pm
Duby (mail):
MacDonald is not arguing for the abandonment of law school clinics but for their refomation. She argues that their current format of clinics is agenda based and proposes that they should better focus non-political cases. The underlying theme of clinics--providing practical training--is still valid.
2.1.2006 1:39pm
Justin (mail):
"2) Mac Donald says that the "domestic violence" clinic has a feminist agenda, and isn't really concerned about the victims of violence. Does it help victims of non-domestic violence?"


The clinic does have the word "domestic" in it for a reason. Furthermore, the complexities of domestic violence provide a range of civil issues that don't exist from violence generally. Those cases would be properly forwarded to either the prosecution clinic or to an ambulance chaser. This argument is absurd.

"Does it help people who are falsely accused of domestic violence?"

I suspect these cases would be properly referred to the defense clinic, though why you believe that, given the basic premise that conservatives are the more anti-criminal rights of the political spectrum, being pro-domestic-violence is a conservative position.

"1) My understanding of the "for-profit" work was that it was not done for low-income clients, but rather for high-income clients."

Huh again??? Why would high-income clients get discounted clinical assistance? Hell, why would high-income clients WANT discounted clinical assistance? This argument strikes me as equally absurd.

3) Does the prosecution clinic work for victims of crime who are having trouble getting the government to prosecute, including cases where there is not a left-wing political agenda?

Woohoo, the aburdity trifecta. I'm not sure you understand what a prosecution clinic does. A prosecution clinic works with a local prosecutor's office and provides them with legal research and extra bodies to deal with certain cases (often less-compelling ones, which is of course not the clinic's preference).

I'm also not sure you understand what a LAW SCHOOL does. A law school, unlike the Heritage Foundation, the AEI, or the Century Foundation, does not teach lobbying. Because the law is flat out clear that prosecutors, and not private organizations or people, have unreviewable discretion to use their prosecutorial power, there's really nothing an outsider can do about the decision other than lobby, which has nothing to do with the clinic's makeup, purpose, or skillset.

So, the only valid question or argument you have is "Does it help men who are assaulted by their wives?" I'd suspect the answer is yes in the rare instance these cases come up, but perhaps someone has a more empirical determination. Still, without any evidence of such to the contrary, it seems absurd to give MacDonald "the benefit of the doubt" here.
2.1.2006 1:41pm
Roger (mail):
She is obviously a very silly girl that is trying to get attention in the hopes that someone will give her some job that she wants.

I think that we all agree that most clinics are a valuable experience and that they don't necessarily "convert" people to one point of view or prejudice the legal process in favor of certain viewpoints. For some reason, people still become prosecutors or work for the government after doing a clinic.

Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe the presence of a criminal law clinic in one city has prosecutors so scared to prosecute anyone that criminals run rampant, every woman is raped at least twice a day (according to the strange multiplication employed by some) because every rapist knows that the law school clinic will "get them off" on a technicality, and the local legislature knows that it can prevent all free enterprise knowing that all businesses are completely unable to lobby or challenge regulations or statutes.
2.1.2006 1:54pm
Justin (mail):
Of the top law schools, btw, Columbia is generally considered the most liberal. Yay alma mater!

Here's there clinical programs:

Transitional Socieites:

Working primarily in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and China, clinical professors Philip Genty, Carol Liebman, Barbara Schatz, and Jane Spinak have led teacher-training workshops, evaluated and assisted individual programs, and developed teaching resources for new clinical programs in more than two dozen countries. For the professors, helping to establish new legal-education systems in countries with still-developing legal systems has instilled a dynamic, global perspective on pedagogy that influences their teaching on how best to approach work with clients and how to help students work with clients whose backgrounds are very different from their own.

Child Advocacy Clinic:

Advocacy in recent years by clinic students has resulted in a number of positive outcomes, including children being returned to their families from foster care; being adopted by relatives or foster parents; securing appropriate school placements; having their immigration status legalized; attaining benefits for college and vocational training; and receiving special grants for art, music, and sports activities. Students have researched and written policy papers on new forms of subsidized guardianship for relatives, for which they have also lobbied in the state capital. In addition, students have participated in impact litigation challenging inappropriate removals of children from long-term foster families; helped create a video to introduce children to family court; and worked on a wide range of projects designed to provide judges, legislators, and city officials with information to improve the policies and practices of the child-welfare system and family court.

Law and the Arts:

In this clinic, students work at least one day a week in VLA's offices, assisting VLA attorneys in advising and counseling artists and arts organizations, primarily in the areas of copyright, entertainment-related contracts, and not-for-profit incorporation and tax exemption.

Environmental Law Clinic:

Students in the Environmental Law Clinic have worked with community groups concerned about pollution and public health as well as with statewide and national organizations and coalitions dealing with such issues as land conservation and transportation. In the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center, they counseled firefighters and others exposed to asbestos and other toxins. They have advocated for citizen and environmental groups before state and federal agencies to ensure that nuclear-power-plant owners maintain adequate resources to operate, maintain, and shut down the plants safely. With a heavy emphasis on client interaction, the clinic teaches students to counsel community groups to grapple with and settle their cases in ways that best achieve their goals. The clinic also addresses the interplay of economic development and environmental protection and the impact of contamination and regulation on communities of color and other economically disadvantaged groups.

Human Rights Clinic:

To bridge theory and practice, the Human Rights Clinic provides students with hands-on experience working on active human rights cases and projects. Though most skills-training is imparted through classroom instruction and simulations, it is applied and tested in the context of real-world advocacy. Working in partnership with experienced attorneys and institutions engaged in human rights activism, both in the United States and abroad, students contribute to effecting positive change locally and globally. In recent semesters, clinic students have engaged in transitional-justice research and participated in sessions of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, students were involved in petitioning the Inter-American Commission to protect the rights of detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Students have also worked with Human Rights Watch and other groups to focus the attention of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on whether the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service is complying with international standards in its "war on terrorism" detentions.

Lawyering in the Digital Age:

Clinic students work shoulder-to-shoulder, both in person and in an online environment, with lawyers for a wide range of public-interest organizations and members of the judiciary. Among other projects, students have handled eviction cases, advocated with administrative agencies to restore essential government benefits, represented victims of domestic violence, organized the pro bono efforts of the private bar in the wake of 9/11, and worked with grassroots community groups to press for affordable housing. Recently, clinic students, working in collaboration with the New York City Civil Court, began to develop an online, automated tenants' response to eviction proceedings, which could serve the needs of the hundreds of thousands of tenants who face eviction each year without the hope of obtaining a lawyer. Students emerge with a combination of contemporary legal and technical skills that gives them a considerable professional edge as they enter the practice of law.

Mediation Clinic:

Students mediate actual community disputes at the Community Mediation Center at Safe Horizon, a nonprofit victim-assistance, advocacy, and violence-prevention organization. Typical cases include disputes between neighbors, roommates, and co-workers, as well as business and organizational conflicts. Students also mediate civil cases at New York City Civil Court Personal Appearance Part and small claims cases at the Harlem Small Claims Court, as well as employment-discrimination claims brought by federal employees and referred by EEOC administrative law judges.

Nonprofit/Small Business Clinic:

Some of the clinic's clients are young, nonprofit organizations that need help in choosing appropriate entities for the conduct of their programs, developing governance structures, securing tax exemptions, and complying with regulatory requirements. Others are more mature groups that need help addressing the legal issues arising from changes such as expansion, creation of a national program, or initiation of income-generating activities. Recent nonprofit clients have included Housing Plus Solutions, an organization that helps women leaving prison or long-term treatment programs, and UHAB Housing Development Fund Corporation, an organization that rehabilitates tax-foreclosed buildings and sells them as low-income cooperatives to tenants. Other clients have included individuals operating small businesses such as family day care, catering companies, and printing shops. These clients are primarily located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York City, such as Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx. They seek the clinic's assistance to form appropriate business structures, enter into contracts, and comply with regulatory requirements. Students also offer seminars and workshops for entrepreneurs on corporate and tax issues.

Prisoner's Rights:

Helping prisoners to protect and advance their rights—and avoid future legal problems—is the goal of the Prisoners and Families Clinic. Students represent prisoners in a variety of legal contexts usually involving parole or parental rights, taking on cases referred by counselors within prisons, former clients, or advocacy organizations. An additional prisoner-education component of the program is managed collaboratively with small groups of prisoners incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional facility, a women's prison, and Green Haven Correctional Facility, a men's prison. These groups facilitate the work of the clinic students in teaching legal workshops on parental rights and responsibilities to incarcerated mothers and fathers. Concentrating on issues such as child custody and foster care, students help prisoners take the steps necessary to improve their chances of success in legal proceedings.

So, GOING BY THE DESCRIPTIONS, only 3 of the clinics cater to mostly liberal interests: the environnmental law clinic (which also helped out 9/11 related activities), lawyering in the digital age (ditto), and the human rights clinic.

It should be noted that Columbia does not have clinics for either criminal defense or prosecution. The Mediation clinic and the NP/SB clinic, though focused on lower income clients (i.e., clients that can't afford better representation, as it should be obviously pointed out that it's news to me that the GOP was now openly "pro-subsidizing-the-rich-for-being-rich"), provide the type of training that MacDonald could not deny is her view of what "real lawyers do."

The Child Advocacy and Prisoner's Rights Clinics, though nonpolitical, could as well be a subchapter of Focus on the Family. The Transitional Societies Clinic seems to fit perfectly in line with Bush's foreign policy agenda. The Law and the Arts division is specialized, but hardly partisan.

See, wasn't empirical research easy? And remember, this is Columbia Law School, which hardly is considered middle of the road, relatively speaking.
2.1.2006 1:55pm
Kate1999 (mail):
Justin writes:
Of the top law schools, btw, Columbia is generally considered the most liberal. Yay alma mater!
Actually, I think Columbia is considered relatively conservative. There are a number of conservatives on the faculty, unlike, say, NYU. Actually, does NYU have any conservatives at all? (Oh, and Rachel Barkow is a liberal, even though she clerked for conservative judges.)
2.1.2006 2:32pm
Mikeyes (mail):
I am going to ask what I consider an obvious question as a layman: "Why is clinical law not a mandated part of law school?" And why have law schools "come a long way from the apprenticeship model of the 19th century" by divesting themselves of any mandatory practicum when all the other public service professions added the theoretical side and kept the practical (albeit that changes too?)

The arguments made in the debate (fi you can call them that) focused on the politics of an elective class that may or may not reflect policy and political decisions of the law school, but certainly don't add to the practical value of law school. If this were a medical school it would be de-certified for not offering enough core clinical courses.

I understand that law is a very broad field and that the majority of lawyers either don't practice in a court room or don't practice at all, but a practical profession such as law has to have some practicum other than Moot Court and Law Review. And even those activities, while probably universal to all law schools (I may be wrong) are for the chosen few.

Is this a debate in the organizations that certify law schools? I'm just curious as it is a different practice from the health fields, teaching and engineering.
2.1.2006 2:34pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
Wait, how is the Prisoner's Rights Clinic "could as well be a subchapter of Focus on the Family." While FOTF certainly does advocate on behalf of parental rights, I'm not sure that they'd be in favor of violent offenders being able to have custody of children. Maybe I'm wrong here, but it certainly seems that this is hardly a conservative position.

I would argue that there are four liberal, one that is somewhat like what Mac Donald is advocating (the non-profit and Small business one), and the rest are, based on cursory glances, politically neutral. Also, note that the small business one focuses on regulatory compliance while the environmental one engages in advocacy through litigation. I doubt that the SB clinic engages in advocacy on behalf of small business to weaken environmental regulatory requirements.
2.1.2006 2:40pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
Ok, one way to do empirical research, would be to take all of the cases in which law clinics were involved (from a representative sample of law schools) and figure out some way to classify the clinic's activities as advocacy on behalf of progressive causes, advocacy on behalf of free-market/conservative causes, compliance with economic regulations, and compliance with moral regulations.

I would guess that clinics that "help" small businesses engage in more compliance work rather than advocacy or finding creative ways to legally skirt onerous regulations or taxes. In fact, since Columbia, Yale, NYU, Harvard, etc. produce a huge number of corporate lawyers who go on to work at firms that defend large corporations against Elliot Spitzer, regulatory agencies, and the IRS, such a clinic in creative evasion would be quite beneficial. I doubt, however, that one could find more than a handful of cases at these law schools in which a clinic did exactly that.

Also, it seems as though the Institute for Justice engages in the type of litigation that Mac Donald suggests law school clinics ought to be tackling. I wonder if the IJ lawyers (or their affiliates) could provide us with some perspective on whether there are clinics that do their kind of legal advocacy.
2.1.2006 2:47pm
Roger (mail):
The big problem here is that calling a legal position "liberal" or "conservative" is often an over-simplification meant only for the lay people. Anyone who has ever done any serious public interest litigation (or even lobbying) knows full well that alliances between public interest organizations change, and there are very frequently strange bedfellows in many issues. For example, the NRA and the ACLU often are on the same side (in 1st and 4th amendment issues). The crazy Christians (I call them that, because I think they are crazy) that want to home school their kids (to keep them from learning that demon science) that the government hates agree with the civil libertarians regarding searches of the home (and regulation of what is taught in the home.) It may well be that prisoners-rights groups and "parents rights" groups agree that prisoners should not lose custody of their children simply because they have been committed. (I don't know for sure.)

The current Gitmo litigation places a number of forces on the side of the alleged terrorists, including a number of people that actually were prisoners of war and actually did serve. But, they might disagree about whether the 1st amendment prevents the government from observing Muslims based purely on their religion.

Gay marriage: homosexuals and true federalists jumped into bed quite quickly on that one. And won!

And, contrary to the beliefs of those mentally-ill jerks that think that the ACLU is selective who it represents, pretty much any time someone wants to suppress some "offensive" viewpoint, the ACLU (or another 1st-amendment organization) will step up to the plate for them. Even if the those that couldn't be bothered to go to law school think it is "liberal" or "conservative."

As I said earlier, she is just a silly girl trying to get attention. It is a shame that the legal community is taking her serious as she is a clown. She seems to have no idea how clinics work, what they do, or even how public interest litigation works.
2.1.2006 2:54pm
Justin (mail):

I don't think your assessment of the Prisoner's Rights forum is correct. Regardless, even if it's not "conservative" (though if it fought on the other side, I suspect you'd find them liberal as well, since that would be advocating the state taking children from their parents and placing them into state custody).

Also, by your definition of "conservative", only the HRC is liberal (and consequently the Transition Society is conservative). The environmental law clinic and the digital age clinic both do traditional pro bono and nonpolitical work, though (as one would expect when serving clients who lack the funds for real lawyers) for underpriviliged causes.


I'm not sure about NYU (though they did take Issacheroff, one of our more conservative professors) recently. But Columbia is clearly considered more liberal than Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, or Yale.
2.1.2006 3:15pm
Bad at Math:
Just some "empirical research":

At HLS, for example, numerous clinics seem to be, if anything, right wing. A large number of students actually get their clinical experience through clinical externships with the Boston U.S. Attorney's Office, the Suffolk District Attorney's Office, or the Massachusettes Attorney General's Office. These popular clinicals allow students to represent the victims that Ms. MacDonald claims go unrepresented. Frequently, students in the Suffolk D.A.'s program will ask the court to grant restituion for victims of robberies. Similarly, students who volunteer at the Boston Area Rape Crisis center are also volunteering on behalf of victims, as are students who do clinical work at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center (LSC), where they provide clinical opportunities representing battered women in obtaining restraining orders.

Harvard students who do a placement at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society help entrepeneurs deal with developing legal issues involved in electronic commerce.

At the Hale &Dorr Legal Services Center, students can do a clinical in "Business Planning: The Lawyer's Role in Deal-Making for Modest-Sized Enterprises".

Students are also free to go do clinical at outside corporations. For example, if a student wanted to, he/she could do an independent clinical (and receive credit) for a placement at, for example, the Coca Cola company, Walmart, or Exxon.

How can Mac Donald simply ignore these examples?

Bad at Math
2.1.2006 4:12pm
Thief (mail) (www):
As the only non-lawyer here, let me make a suggestion for "empirical" research:

Take every clinic at every law school out there. Get their descriptions, and take those descriptions at face value. Most of them would fall into a handful of categories (indigent criminal defense, environmental regulation, juvenile justice, etc.) Count them up. I will bet you dollars to donuts that you will find a glut of criminal defense clinics, but very few business law or transactional law clinics.

Then, do a survey of law students, asking them about their participation in law clinics. (What is their opinion of clinics? Do they participate in these clinics? if so, in which clinics? If not, why not? What clinics would they like to see added? What do they think the purpose of clinics are? Most importantly, check for the political aligments of each respondent in terms of their views on various areas of law (i.e. for criminal law; "lock 'em up" vs. "they're victims of the system," "laissez-faire" vs. "save us from markets" in business law, etc. etc. ) I will then bet you that students of all political persuasions consider clinics to be politically slanted towards a leftist, "progressive" view of things.

The point is not that the kinds of clinics McDonald cites don't exist; they do. It is that there is a disconnect between the kind of clinics law school faculties want to run, the kind that students want to participate in, and the kind that societies as a whole need.
2.1.2006 4:22pm
Walter Sobchack:

Actually, George Mason Law School's "legal clinic" is not for low-income people in need of legal services (GMU doesn't have a poverty-law clinic). It is basically an externship program placing law students in various environments -- judge's chambers, prosecutor's offices, defense attny's office, and private firms.

GMU also has the Clinic for the Legal Assistance to Servicemembers which provides free civil legal services to active-duty members of the armed forces and their families for whom hiring counsel would create an undue hardship.

Mason also has an immigration clinic, regulatory clinic, and a "telehealth" clinic.
2.1.2006 4:23pm
KMAJ (mail):
It is an interesting debate, but one that is not wholly satisfying. One would need a study of which cases these clinics accept and reject. It is a fact that academe leans heavily left, does this hold true for law professors ? Does the same hold true for the legal profession as a whole ?

We have three studies that support the left leaning of law schools:

Leftward Leaning
, an article by Peter Schuck on studies by James Lindgren, a lawyer/sociologist at Northwestern University and a study published last year (2005) in the Georgetown Law Journal by Northwestern professor John McGinnis and two coauthors.

Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty by Rothman and Lichter. Rothman and Lichter are responsible for the comprehensive study that revealed the bias in the news media back in the 80s, and other studies since then.

Representation of Political Perspectives in Law and Journalism Faculties

Political Bias in the Administrations and Faculties of 32 Elite Colleges and Universities

The two above are by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture which is run by that now despised left defector, David Horowitz.

How Many Democrats per Republican at UC-Berkeley and Stanford? by Santa Clara University's Klein and Western

It might hold to reason that similar leanings, as a generalization, would hold to the legal profession at large. Does this 'leaning' affect the cases that are accepted or rejected by these clinics ? Do we do a disservice to shrug of such discrepancies in a field that has a great influence on society and has the wherewithal to impose a minority view on the majority ? The same is true for the profession of journalism in the court of public opinion. In my experience, it is the nature for professions to harbor an inate, but subtle, sense of elitism, the we know what is right for the masses mindset. Ted Koppel displayed just such a mindset, from the journalism perspective, in a NY Times editorial:

" is the journalists who should be telling their viewers what is important, not the other way around."

Is it some insidious design ? No, more than likely just an example of human nature, a longing to maintain that position on a pedestal they once held. Can such an extension be logically attributed to the legal profession as well ?

Well, I digress as I meander around the periphery of the original topic. It does come down to the simple question, how much influence does a heavily left leaning law school staff influence the decisions of the clinics ? History lays a foundation for a legitimate claim of a leftward interpretation of the Constitution since FDR stacked SCOTUS. It reflected a shift in society. Now society is shifting again and change is once again occurring. Change is neither good nor bad, it is simply change. One can fight it, but eventually the will of a free society will prevail.
2.1.2006 4:27pm
Justin (mail):
KMAJ, the massive systematic flaws of each of those studies has been debated at nauseam in this thread, and I don't think your link-filled regurgitation is going to settle a highly-contentious debate that has been ongoing on this site. Please try to stay on point.
2.1.2006 4:33pm
Roger (mail):
While the debate at legal affairs is silly, there might be a legitimate question to ask: why do law schools give credit for work performed at government agencies. Government agencies (unlike poor people) have money. Government agencies are capable of defending themselves. Unlike poor people, they don't seem to really benefit from having "externs." (Most of the time they don't take them seriously and mock them behind their back, unless the extern is doing a good job campaigning for a job and goes to a lot of happy hours.)

Thief, Student responses to surveys are next to worthless, since everyone just says what people want them to hear. (Heck, I did that quite well for several years of my life. That is how I paid my students loans off.) I don't know what society "needs." But, Theif, if you want to conduct that survey you propose, go ahead. It is more than that silly girl did, and it might shed some light. Nevertheless, all we have now is your "bet" as to how it would turn out.

Criminal law clinics historically exist at law schools, because 1) there are so darn many people being arrested; and 2) there has always been a desire to provide counsel to people. Now, contrary to the beliefs of the lay people, people that do criminal defense don't follow a common political pattern. Indeed, in a moment of boredom, I plugged in the names of the lawyers into that do indigent criminal defense in a city that I am familiar with (there are 15 such lawyers), and of the 10 that donated to a presidential candidate, 8 of them donated to Bush! I don't know what this means. Lay people seem to think that it is "liberal" to represent criminals, and many people think that "society" doesn't need people to defend people accused of crimes, but for some reason, once people become lawyers they seem to believe in the adversarial system and don't see much difference between fighting for one side or the other.
2.1.2006 4:35pm
Roger (mail):
I agree with Justin. I looked at those links and they did not contribute to the debate. I think that KMAJ was trying to make a political point for non-lawyers, which is not really going to convince lawyers of anything. We are not fighting a war on terror, we must all strive to stick to rigorous legal reasoning and not give in to political rhetoric. If we fail to do this, the enemies of freedom have already won.
2.1.2006 4:38pm
Walter Sobchack:

Isn't the reason law schools give credit for student externships w/ government agencies because the students learn (presumably) valuable legal skills there?

As long as the student is learning practical skills, should it matter where the student learns them?

From the law school's perspective, I would think the relevant "need" is the student's need and not that of the client/beneficiary.
2.1.2006 4:52pm
There is no freaking way Columbia Law is more liberal than NYU Law. I'm sorry, but this isn't even open to debate. NYU defines itself by its wacky-left politics. The dominance in that area is almost as severe as the annual thrashing we administer in the Dean's Cup basketball game.

Are people still trying to contest the fact that the vast majority of law schools are left-leaning? I thought we'd progressed to the part of the debate where we learn that academics are lefties because conservatives are stupid, and that left-wing professors don't let their politics into the classroom.
2.1.2006 5:04pm
anonymous coward:
I'm really quite puzzled why serving in government is "right-wing" or providing legal services to the poor is "left-wing."
2.1.2006 5:04pm
Roger (mail):
Mr. Sobchack, I am unsure exactly why law schools let students do externships. Unlike clinics, they exercise minimal supervision over exactly what the students do. Instead, they seem to just hope they pick something up. (Which, in reality, they don't.)

But, assuming that all externships teach students things, then it would seem that if there is a political bias inherent in clinics, it is counterbalanced by the externships.

However, I think that most law schools think of "need" in terms of "will the student get a job." (At least in the TTTs, which most people define as "under 20 by USN.") Therefore, most schools see externships as an opportunity to campaign for a job that would otherwise go to a grad of a "real" law school.

Life is rough.
2.1.2006 5:05pm
Roger (mail):
Jake, I think that, in fact, the issue IS open to debate, for the following reasons.

1) Just because you say something is settled does not mean it is. In fact, last time I looked, Jake was not the arbiter of anything;

2) Political ideology is quite difficult to determine, especially in a field such as law that at best, only tangentially interacts with politics as known by those that couldn't be bothered to go to law school;

3) In a Democratic Society, just about everything is open to debate.

anonymous coward
, the reason people consider working for the government to be "conservative" is that for some reason people think that putting people in jail is "conservative" whereas defending them from an intrusive and overly large government is liberal. Of course when some people spend their entire careers in government, they are considered "liberal" unless their name is "Alito" and they can't make it at a firm, in which case, they are "conservative."
2.1.2006 5:08pm
Justin (mail):
I agree with walter and anonymous,

Also, I know that the externships at Columbia (State AG, District Court, 2nd Circuit, Manhattan and Bronx DAs office last time I checked) all have supervisory portions of their position that are sufficient to merit the relatively few nongraded credits received.
2.1.2006 5:10pm
Justin (mail):
Jake, while I agree that the empirical debate of whether there are more "Democrats" than "Republicans" on the faculty of law school (or, for that matter, the biology department) is an easy question. (Also an easy question is whether most of the students at the top 10 law schools in the country, who will go on to compete for faculty positions, tend to vote Democratic or Republican).

Whether that distribution is relevant, whether it is natural given the pool of qualified candidates, and whether there is an anti-leftist (not anti-Democrat but anti-the x% most liberal members of the pool of qualified candidates, with in all cases candidates restricting ourselves to those who want the job) are all incredibly open questions that your kneejerk response doesn't begin to consider.

Your kneejerk response also doesnt explain the bias in a hole host of fields in which political leanings do not play a role in the field (from most types of philosophy to almost every type of hard science), nor how the most important "credentials" a potential law professor could have (published materials, judicial clerkships, and law review positions) affect any bias (while some law reviews have an affirmative action policy that I find unhelpful might cause that one factor to lean left, the clerkship process more than makes up for this, for instance).

Finally, it's completely off topic. No doubt in 2 or 3 weeks Professor Lindgren or Zywecki will have another study showing that more Democrats are academics than Republicans, which will get a response from liberal posters showing that this proves as much bias as the voting preferences of investment bankers prove that such field is biased against liberals.
2.1.2006 5:19pm

I am not the arbiter of anything. I'm simply surprised that people are continuing to argue against the overwhelming weight of the evidence accumulated about legal academia (and the academy in general) over the last few years.

If you want to keep trying to argue against the facts, instead of coming up with reasonable explanations for the facts, then by all means continue.

Law doesn't interact with politics? Would that it were so.
2.1.2006 5:25pm
Thank you Justin for clarifying your position on Roe.

Also, I admire your turn of a phrase: "Woohoo, the aburdity trifecta":)

If I may sneak in one more OT question, do you think a German Shepheard dog who assists in wartime and saves lives, and is loyal, courageous, and hardworking has a "soul"? Would he have more of a "soul" than a person born severely retarded who exists in a permanent vegetative state and is incapable of reason?

I only ask because if the answer is yes, then, without going into the argument, I would think that the right to an abortion would be a Constitutional question.
2.1.2006 11:49pm
Adam (www):
Also, it seems as though the Institute for Justice engages in the type of litigation that Mac Donald suggests law school clinics ought to be tackling. I wonder if the IJ lawyers (or their affiliates) could provide us with some perspective on whether there are clinics that do their kind of legal advocacy.

Like this one?
2.2.2006 12:17am
Thief (mail) (www):

Thief, Student responses to surveys are next to worthless, since everyone just says what people want them to hear. (Heck, I did that quite well for several years of my life. That is how I paid my students loans off.) I don't know what society "needs." But, Theif, if you want to conduct that survey you propose, go ahead. It is more than that silly girl did, and it might shed some light. Nevertheless, all we have now is your "bet" as to how it would turn out.

1. On surveys: I think it's more a question of survey design. Specifically, I think if the survey was done anonymously (i.e. no connection between respondents and their answers) you'd probably get honest input. It's the same reason why elections require secret ballots.

2. On society's needs: Everyone needs access to a lawyer. (I'm reminded of the old saw about how a town not big enough for one lawyer will do just fine with two, and also, for some reason, about the concept of arms races and Mutually Assured Destruction.) Every kind of lawyer wants students to come work for them and develop the skills they will need to be good advocates. And, indeed, there are all sorts of internships and externships available for law students in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, doing every kind of law imaginable.

Then you have clinics, which offer substantially better incentives, at least for those who choose not to, or can afford not to, worry about pay: working closely with professors, being able to "practice" on a provisional basis (The DC Bar, for example, clears every clinical law student who will be appearing before a court, and those students have to abide by the same rules of practice and conduct), more opportunities for class credits, more opportunities for scholarships and fellowships, etc.

The problem is that the benefits of clinics are only offered to those students who identify with the black vs. white narrative (figuratively, and in some cases literally) espoused by their law school patrons: the client are beyond fault, and the opponent is not only an opponent, but part of "a vast machine of oppression that benefits the the well off while depriving the desperate." (I'm not kidding. Those words, as best I remember them, were spoken by a law student, and overheard by me while waiting in a lunchline.) Prof. Sullivan all but confessed to these biases in his latest entry. Again, the problem is that the vast majority of law professors, to say nothing about the clinical professors, is that they are focusing only on the problems that they think the legal profession needs to solve to the exclusion of all others, much like (forgive me, Prof. Kerr!) the joke about the drunk looking for his lost keys under the lamppost because the light is better there.

Really, this is a problem of allocating finite resources. The choses causesmay be morally satisfying, but does it really solve the underlying problem? Do these "public service" clinics really serve the public?

3. On bets: Maybe I should have called my bets "hypotheses" instead. But I will make the further hypothesis that any attempt to get student, employer, or public input as to the nature and value of clinical education will be vigorously resisted by the legal academy. (If there's one I've learned about law professors, it's that they are never, ever wrong, especially when they are.)
2.2.2006 3:50pm