William Mitchell Law Review

Article Title

From the Clinic to the Classroom: Or What I Would Have Learned If I Had Been Paying More Attention to My Students and Their Clients

Publication Information

30 William Mitchell Law Review 101 (2003-2004)


For the last fifteen years, I've taught in William Mitchell's Civil Advocacy Clinic. I have the best job in town. It's the best job for a lawyer because in the clinic we can always find more clients, we are free to take the cases that seem the most pressing or most interesting, and we never have to worry about billing our clients. It's the best job for a teacher because, unlike other teachers, I get to see the end of the educational story. Each semester, I sit next to students and watch them as they interview and counsel clients, conduct direct and cross-examination, argue cases in front of the court of appeals, and generally demonstrate what it is they have learned about the law while they have been here at the college. It is also the best job for a lawyer and a teacher because so much of the time spent on the job is expressly focused on figuring out what lessons have been learned from all that experience. Most of the time, of course, my clinic students talk about what it is they have learned. That, however, is only half the story. Like every other clinical teacher I have ever talked to, I have frequently watched my students do something--during an interview, during a cross-examination, during an argument--and said to myself, “Wow! I never would have thought to do that. The next time I have a chance, I'll have to try that myself.” My clinic students have taught me many lessons about lawyering and I've put many of those lessons to good use in my own work with clients. Lately, though, as I've worked with my clinic students, I have started to pay more attention to the lessons I've learned--or should have learned--about my own teaching, and especially about my classroom teaching. In addition to teaching in the clinic, I have also taught Torts and Evidence. This past year, two experiences related to clinical teaching--one a moment of personal epiphany and the other, a conversation with a colleague--have caused me to spend more time thinking about what I should be learning in the clinic and applying in the classroom.