Faculty presentations take on poverty and diversity in the law.
Thousands of law faculty, deans, administrators, and scholars gathered in San Francisco,
California, last month for the 111th American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting. Under an overarching theme of "Why Law Matters," the yearly peer event gave attendees the opportunity to connect with one another, discuss critical and emerging legal issues, and attend programs offering fresh perspectives on law and legal education. Among those invited to speak at this year's AALS Meeting were two Concordia University School of Law faculty members – Latonia Keith, Assistant Professor, Director of Clinical Education, and Samia McCall, Assistant Director of Career Services. Read on to learn more about their research on the roles of poverty, justice, and diversity in the legal profession.
A presentation that seeks justice
Professor Keith's invitation to speak as a panelist at the AALS Annual Meeting came on the heels of presenting on her article, "Poverty, the Great Unequalizer," at the Doing Justice Without Doing Harm conference at Pepperdine University earlier this year. This January, she made her presentation at the AALS Meeting during a session entitled "Bridging the Gaps: Using Technology to Increase Access to Justice and Law School Engagement."
The excerpt below from Keith's abstract highlights the focus of her article and the AALS presentation based on that article.
When individuals in the United States face civil justice issues, they are not entitled to legal counsel and therefore must secure paid counsel, proceed pro se, or qualify for free legal assistance. As a result of the economic downturn, the number of Americans who are unable to afford legal counsel is now at an all-time high. In response to this ever-widening justice gap, the public interest community has launched multiple initiatives to supplement the underfunded legal aid system. Though valiant, this approach has unfortunately created a complex, fragmented, and overlapping delivery system for legal aid. This article first provides an understanding of the current civil legal landscape, especially as it impacts low-income and modest-means Americans. It then examines the many initiatives developed as a means of closing the justice gap and whether such initiatives have helped or harmed underserved populations. Finally, this article proposes three specific reforms – the development of a comprehensive triage mechanism, the infusion of business process improvement within legal aid organizations, and the creation of legal information exchange organizations – all of which, if implemented, will make great strides toward streamlining the delivery system for civil legal aid.
The full article was published in Catholic University Law Review last month.
A presentation that defines diversity
Professor McCall was invited to speak at the AALS Annual Meeting after pitching a paper concept in 2016 to the AALS Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Minority Law Teachers and Students. She presented her paper during an AALS workshop panel entitled "Empirical Evidence and Diversity." The abstract below outlines the focus of McCall's presentation:
Today's law schools strive to create an environment of diversity. But what exactly does diversity mean? The definition can be very subjective. In one law school, diversity could mean having groups of students from different states, while in other schools diversity could mean students of different ethnic groups. In both schools those same groups of students could be of the same socio-economic and political backgrounds so as to make them not diverse in the eyes of a third school. Many schools have such narrow definitions of diversity that they end up so focused on checking a box they forget to really learn about the students they are trying to admit. Such metrics can end up with situations like the "All Lives Matter" fiasco at the American University Washington College of Law, which on paper may look diverse but in reality contains little room for diversity of thought in the classroom. In order to accommodate more diverse student bodies and create environments that support success for diverse students, law schools must abandon complicated metrics for diversity and focus on admitting student bodies with diverse backgrounds which will foster diverse thoughts and opinions in the classroom.
Faculty who stay active in their field
Concordia faculty are not only passionate about teaching – they're also passionate about the law. Concordia Law students are benefitting from their professors' past experiences as well as their continuing research and study of current legal matters. As professors Keith and McCall demonstrate through their recent presentations, studying law, working to effect change, and trying to make a difference aren't just Concordia Law goals but also life-long missions.