Poor people are not served well by the kinds of advocacy currently taught and reinforced in most law clinics. The canonical approaches to clinical legal education, which focus nearly exclusively on individual client empowerment, the transfer of a limited number of professional skills, and lawyer-led impact litigation and law reform, are not sufficient to sustain effective public interest practice in the current political moment. These approaches rely on a practice narrative that does not accurately portray the conditions poor people face or the resistance strategies that activist, organized groups deploy. At the margins of the field, a growing number of law school clinics and innovative legal advocacy organizations have played a key role in developing a new public interest practice. These lawyers and law students support and stimulate radical democratic resistance to market forces by developing litigation, legislative, and community education methods aimed at advancing collective mobilization. This article offers a typology of clinical approaches, a critique of the canon, and a description of the features of an emerging alternative clinical model that promises to reconfigure public interest law.


Excerpted in Clinical Anthology: Readings for Live Client Clinics. 2d edition. LexisNexis, 2011.