August 4, 2015

The Role of Law Schools In Creating Social Change

Jonathan Rapping, Atlanta's John Marshall Law School, has published Grooming Tomorrow's Change Agents: The Role of Law Schools in Helping to Create a Just Society. Here is the abstract.
Numerous authorities have lamented the fact that America’s criminal justice system is broken. To address this crisis, experts have proposed a range of policy proscriptions. But these proposals overlook a fundamental driver of this state of injustice. The criminal justice system as it now exists is defined by a value system inconsistent with justice. And many professionals responsible for administering criminal justice – politicians, judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel – have been shaped by this corrupted value system. As a result, those responsible for justice in America frequently promote unjust outcomes. If we are ever to realize meaningful reform, we must groom a generation of professionals who embrace those ideals fundamental to American justice, and work together to infuse the criminal justice system with these values. Because so many of these professionals are lawyers, our nation’s law schools must play an indispensable role in this effort. Critics have identified some significant shortcomings in legal education. Many have pointed to the failure of law schools to teach skills and values essential to the practice of law. Some have urged law schools to inspire graduates to find careers that promote the public interest. But largely overlooked is the need to equip lawyers with strategies to promote justice in broken systems. If law schools are going to fulfil their obligation to help us realize our most noble ideals, they must develop curricula designed to not only teach lawyers values and motivate them towards social justice careers; but to also arm them with tools to resist systems hostile to the principles that define us as a nation. This article discusses this challenge and examines two efforts to equip young lawyers with tools and strategies to become the change agents necessary to drive reform; one through an innovative law school curricula and the other through the training and mentoring of lawyers post law school in the crucial arena of indigent defense.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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