New England Clinical Conference

Racial Injustice in the Law and Institutions:
Building Toward an Anti-Racist Future in Experiential Programs

Northeastern University School of Law was honored to host the 2021 New England Clinical Conference on Friday, March 26.


8:30 - 9:00 AM
Works in Progress

9:00 - 9:30 AM
Community Zoom Room Opening Meet and Greet

9:30 - 9:45 AM
Welcome and Introduction

10:00 - 11:00 AM
Concurrent 1

'Building the Container' for Anti-Racist Learning Communities that Foster a Sense of Belonging
Susan Brooks, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and Professor of Law, Drexel University

The goal of this highly interactive session is for participants to learn practices and tools for creating a classroom culture and learning community that promotes anti-racism knowledge, skills, and values, and fosters equity, inclusion and a sense of belonging among all students. The learning objectives are as follows:
- Participants will be able to appreciate the importance of devoting significant time to container building as a necessary foundation for anti-racism pedagogy and a classroom/clinic culture that fosters a sense of belonging;
- Participants will become familiar with the components of container building, as well as the goals and purposes of each component; and
- Participants will be able to experience and reflect on concrete activities and tools for implementing each component of container building

The session will be conducted in the form of an experiential learning lab, where participants will engage in, reflect on, and harvest take-aways from the various components and selected activities of the container-building process over the course of the hour.

In order to engage in anti-racism work as clinical law teachers, we first need to appreciate the importance of building the container, meaning undertaking deliberate and intentional activities that will help create the kind of learning community and classroom environment that will support anti-racism efforts and foster a sense of belonging for all students.

Better Than Our Biases: Using Psychological Research to Inform Our Approach To Inclusive, Effective Feedback
Anne Gordon, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Externships, Duke Law School.

My goal with this session is to present my paper: "Mitigating Law Professor Bias to Create Effective and Equitable Learning Environments," which will be published in the Spring issue of the Clinical Law Review, with a particular emphasis on the anti-racist potential of professors who take affirmative steps to mitigate their bias. Perhaps with an emphasis on feedback procedure and rubrics, depending on interest and advice from the organizers.

This will present a focus on how clinicians can create inclusive or hostile learning environments and what we can do to ensure the former. Anti-racist education not just in the curriculum, but in how we address our own biases in our interactions with our students.

11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Concurrent 2

Real Change on Equity and Racial Justice Starts with Your Syllabus: How to Create an Inclusive, Engaging Syllabus and First Class That Serve All of Your Students, Your Classroom and Your Learning Objectives
Constance Browne, BU Law, Clinical Professor of Law, Civil Litigation & Justice Program
Cecily Banks, Director, BU Law, Corporate Counsel Externship Program, and Lecturer
Brian Wilson, BU Law, Lecturer/Clinical Instructor, Prosecutor Clinic

Mindset: Which students come to mind when you write your syllabus?
Orientation: Does your syllabus embrace a contract model or an inclusive learning model?
Tone: Do you use cold (“students must”) or warm (“students will have the opportunity to”) language?
Culture: Do you inadvertently incorporate white dominant culture in your syllabus?
First Class: How do you design your first class to communicate your teaching philosophy and to encourage the pursuit of social justice?

The above questions are especially important given the racially-motivated violence engrained in our culture, in the cases we assign, and in the society in which our students work. Following the numerous tragic events of racially-motivated violence over the past year, law schools nationwide have publicly vowed to re-examine their policies on diversity, equity and inclusion and strengthen their commitments to fighting racial injustice, particularly in the educational and legal spaces we lead. Giving thought to the above questions and discussing them together will help us all as faculty assure our students that we not only stand with our deans regarding these commitments, but that we intend to implement these promises at the individual course level.

Long considered little more than a list of administrative matters and class assignments, the syllabus can serve as an effective means of communicating to our experiential students our own commitments to inclusive access and belonging for all students, as well as demonstrating how they, by virtue of their work on the front lines, are uniquely situated to carrying out our collective mission. In addition, a well-designed first class can complement the syllabus by promoting a discussion of what they will contribute, both individually and collectively, to the pursuit of racial equity and social justice.

This presentation will create a forum to consider the five questions above and to discuss the various ways in which conscientious syllabi and first class design can promote a growth mindset empowering students as they take on the responsibility of effecting real change. We envision an interactive discussion in which participants share their own practices, creating a “bank” from which we can all borrow. We will also share over thirty pages of materials offering samples of inclusive syllabus language and design.

The syllabus, course policies and the very first class are the most important, up-front mechanisms for professors to communicate to students their views, values, priorities and approaches – for the classroom climate and experiential work – around power, race, inclusion, equity and antiracist work. An inclusion-driven syllabus can help create a course that acknowledges the experiences, world views and identities of all people and that engages all students in active and meaningful learning with a sense of belonging and well-being, all while building their cultural awareness and humility. At BU Law, as part of our renewed institutional commitments to antiracist experiential programs and teaching in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we prioritized this fall a step-by-step analysis of our syllabi for improvements to infuse diversity, equity and inclusion throughout, across a broad range of topics: privilege/the role of power, race/ethnicity, sex/gender/transgender/nonbinary, sexuality/sexual orientation, gender identity, age, immigrant status/citizenship, language of origin, social class/first generation, disability, religious/nonreligious, cultural competence/humility, implicit bias, global/transnational, intersectionality, systemic/institutional-level. Using checklists and guides, we workshopped our individual spring 2021 syllabi in several sessions, working together to incorporate language and policies grounded in explicit, cohesive antiracist and inclusion principles. The result has been a consistent body of more powerful syllabi, across all programs, that advance our collective commitments and help prepare students for their role as attorneys on these essential and urgent efforts. We are eager to share our syllabus work and materials to support this conference’s theme of institutional antiracism.

Reimagining the Clinic Seminar through the Lens of Justice Lawyering
Anna Welch, Sam L. Cohen Refugee and Human Rights Clinical Professor, Maine Law
Courtney Beer, Associate Clinical Professor, Maine Law

The goal of this session is to discuss programming that we have incorporated into our clinical programs related to race and the law. We have embedded multiple new components into our clinical programs that provide students the opportunity to discuss issues related to race, including anti-racist and allyship discussion groups, “Lunch with a Side of Revolution,” additional seminar classes on cultural humility and justice lawyering, and trainings and actual client work involving movement lawyering. The programming we will discuss involves all of the students from all of our clinics.

One component of our program is a student-led weekly discussion group developed and facilitated by students. The students chose the name of Anti-Racist Education and Allyship Growth Group (ARE&AGG). This idea for a continuing education group came out of a debrief clinic faculty and students had following a school-wide “town hall” discussion regarding issues in response to the BLM movement. The clinic students proposed forming this group “to challenge their entrenched beliefs and to learn more about systemic oppression”. The goal of the group is to provide an opportunity to continue their learning and growth as allies together. The students rotate facilitation of the weekly discussion by choosing a topic that interests them and pairing it with some form of media (reading, video, audio, etc). Examples of topics included white privilege, white saviorism, race and law, race and gender, mass incarceration, voter suppression, educational disparity, income inequality, and LGBTQ & race intersection.

Several times we invite local and national experts to speak with our students. Fondly, we refer to these lunchtime presentations as "Lunch with a Side of Revolution". This year we had several individuals join us, including Kristin Henning of Georgetown Law, Mary Bonauto of GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, and Hernan Carvente of Youth First and founder of Healing Ninjas.

Our 90-minute weekly all-clinics seminar classes also incorporate a variety of modules designed to combat individual and systemic racism, including, e.g., classes on the ethics of narrative, cultural humility, and justice lawyering. Throughout the semester we require students to draft self reflection papers that encourage them to reflect on their biases and the impact of these biases on their lawyering. We also hold weekly case rounds where students discuss issues of race and bias relevant to their case and project work.

Finally, we offer students the opportunity to engage in movement lawyering through training and direct representation of individuals arrested during the BLM protests.

During this session, we will share our programming ideas and then split into breakout groups to discuss what others are doing to embed race-based programming into their students’ clinical experience. We will end by coming back as a group to share ideas and strategies for making the most out of the Clinic seminar through the lens of justice lawyering.

The stated goal of the conference will focus on racial injustice in the law and specifically how law clinics are confronting and combatting systemic and individual acts of racism and bias. The purpose of our session is to discuss how the Clinic seminar can help students to identify individual and systemic racism and to brainstorm how we as lawyers can begin to combat those issues.

12:30 - 1:00 PM
Lightning Sessions

Vacancy and Abandonment in St. Louis: Flipping the Script
Dana Malkus, Professor; Associate Dean for Experiential Education; Director, Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic Legal Clinics, Saint Louis University School of Law

Like other legacy cities, St. Louis has a very large number of vacant and abandoned properties.  It is a challenge that disproportionately affects Black St. Louisans, resulting in lower property values (and decreased wealth), higher rates of drug and gun crime, higher rates of dumping, poorer environmental health, and a lower quality of life.  This vacancy challenge is rooted in systemic racism (i.e., redlining, restrictive covenants, white flight) and is exacerbated by many other factors.

Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic students at Saint Louis University School of Law helped establish and continue to work with the St. Louis Vacancy Collaborative, a coalition of partners committed to the reduction of vacant property as a top priority in St. Louis.  This session will provide brief historical context for the vacancy and abandonment challenge in St. Louis (i.e., how law and policy have contributed to the problem) and give examples of how ECD Clinic students are using law and policy tools to “flip the script” by working with traditionally marginalized communities to confront systemic inequities and bring change.

Reintegration: Holistic Approaches to Expunction and Nondisclosure Projects
Natalie Thamm, 2L, St. Mary’s University School of Law, Reentry and Reintegration Project Coordinator
Karen Muñoz, 2L, St. Mary’s University School of Law, Reentry and Reintegration Project Coordinator; Co-Founder, Mano Amiga, Community advocacy organization
Greg Zlotnick, Director of Pro Bono Programs, St. Mary’s University School of Law; Pro Bono Coordinator Award, State Bar of Texas, 2020

In March 2020, the School of Law’s Pro Bono Program pivoted to a virtual, remote model, maintaining strong collaborations with an array of legal services providers, offering novel ways for law students to advance justice at a moment where our community’s legal needs have continued to grow. Whether through the adaptation of existing pro bono opportunities or the development of new, remote collaborations, the Pro Bono Program continues its work of developing justice-ready law students and lawyers.

In the aftermath of both the economic recession and the mass movements for racial justice, student engagement on matters of economic and racial justice has flourished at St. Mary’s Law. In conjunction with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, a cohort of dedicated law student volunteers have continued to research and help draft petitions for expunctions and non-disclosures for eligible clients who, too, will pursue those remedies pro se. These leaders have also creatively engaged their classmates on justice issues. Earlier this fall, students from these organizations, as well as from The Scholar, the law school’s social justice law review, convened a Zoom discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Heather Ann Thompson on the Attica prison uprising and its implications for today.

This presentation will share the following from this holistic approach to operating an expunction and nondisclosure pro bono project:

Share adaptations made to continue project during pandemic;
Share techniques in growing volunteer base during pandemic;
Share challenges in meeting community needs during pandemic and racial justice protests;
Share successes in broadening project scope in response to student interest and community needs;
Share importance of grounding efforts in philosophy of accompaniment/community lawyering,
as well as asset-based approach to student leadership

Learning Objectives:
-Attendees will understand how to identify community partners for collaborative reintegration efforts;
-Attendees will gain technical expertise about administering nondisclosure/expunction clinics virtually;
-Attendees will deepen awareness of asset-based approach to student-directed pro bono projects;
-Attendees will brainstorm ways in which such a project can be adapted to address needs specific to their community;

-35-minute presentation; 10-minute breakout rooms (each facilitator sits in on one of three breakout rooms to help with reporting); 5 minute wrap-up; 10 minute Q&A
-Slide Deck with images of online events (Heather Ann Thompson, Donna Harati); checklists for expunction/nondisclosure; flyer and photos from Inside Book Project book drive
-Integration of Zoom quiz questions at beginning of presentation to gauge how many participants have reentry/reintegration efforts at their law school; whether they’re clinic/pro bono/externship/doctrinal
-Use of breakout rooms to brainstorm ways in which such ideas can be adapted in home community; presenters will go into each breakout room to hear ideas to read out in wrap-up.
-Effects of Carceral State on local communities;
-Role of law school at Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in racial justice work

Effectuating Policy Through the Clinical Experience: Educating State Legislatures About Your Clinic's Goals
Alexander Simpson, Associate Director, California Innocence Project Director, Street Law San Diego
Jasmin Harris, Associate Director of Development and Policy, California Western School of Law

In this session, attendees will hear about how to position your clinic's goals and mission statements to effectuate policy relating to racial injustice and the elimination of racial bias in policing and the court system.

The California Innocence Project was one of the co-sponsors of the Racial Justice Act in California as well as numerous other pieces of legislation aimed at eliminating racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Building the Record: How Investigating Historical Injustices Deepens our Understanding of Structural Racism and Present-Day Remedies
Katie Sandson, Elizabeth Zitrin Justice Fellow, Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Northeastern University School of Law
Raymond Wilkes, Legal Fellow, Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Northeastern University School of Law

The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) at Northeastern University School of Law is a mission-driven program of interdisciplinary teaching, research, and policy analysis on race, history, and criminal justice. Students in the CRRJ Clinic research racial homicides, including lynchings and police killings, from the Jim Crow era and develop restorative justice initiatives based on their cases.

This presentation will discuss the CRRJ’s unique pedagogy, which couples student researchers with family descendants and community groups to investigate cases and design reparative programs. This presentation will also examine CRRJ’s findings, drawn from our case investigations, about the historical failings of law enforcement and legal systems to protect African American citizens from widespread racial terror during this time period, and about the ongoing legacies of this history. Our research underscores the need for the legal institutions that contributed to these historical harms to play a central role in reparative projects today.

1:15 - 2:15 PM
Keynote (with BYO Lunch)

Jasmine Gonzales Rose
Associate Director of Policy, Center for Antiracist Research, Boston University

2:15 - 2:30 PM
Final Words / Conclusion

Keynote Speaker
Associate Director of Policy, Center for Antiracist Research, Boston University

Jasmine Gonzales Rose is a professor at Boston University School of Law. She is a critical proceduralist and is particularly interested in the intersections of racism and linguicism within two areas: juries and evidence. She is a leading criticalist voice on Evidence Law, with a focus on the evidentiary issues raised by racialized police violence. She is also an expert on juror language disenfranchisement. Professor Gonzales Rose is an award-winning teacher who has taught courses on Evidence; Criminal Law; Race and the Law; Latinxs and the Law; Civil Procedure; Civil Rights Law; and Complex Litigation for Social Change.

Please email Professor Margo Lindauer at

This conference is supported in part by CLEA, the Clinical Legal Education Association,

This conference is made possible in part through the support of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education.