University of Wisconsin–Madison

2011 Midwest Clinical Law Conference

True Grit: The Grit of What We Do

The University of Wisconsin Law School is pleased to host the 2011 Midwest Clinical Law Conference on November 11-13, 2011. We hope you will join us to see old friends, meet new colleagues, and engage in a weekend-long discussion about improving clinical legal education. And where else to hold this conference than the center of news and media attention, Madison, Wisconsin, on a beautiful fall weekend on the vibrant campus between the lakes?

The theme for this year’s conference is "True Grit: The Grit of What We Do." Over the course of the weekend, we hope to explore three facets of clinical focus: telling our clients’ stories, fostering systemic change in a variety of legal fields, and developing innovative pedagogical teaching methods. We will explore these “grains” of our work through a unique track-based presentation schedule, designed to focus on one of these three areas.

While we encourage you to follow a given track throughout the conference, you are more than welcome to explore the various concurrent sessions going on at any given time. In addition, each day we will have a plenary session from a different “track” to provide a complete coverage of the three topics. In addition to our scheduled track events, we will also have opening day remarks from UW Law School Dean Margaret Raymond and a lunchtime talk from Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

In addition to our wonderful speakers and presentations, we also invite you to come to the conference to tell your story.  Modeled on NPR's StoryCorps project, this year's conference will provide participants with an opportunity to record and share a story in either audio or visual format.  We encourage you to record your story during the conference.  Click here for some suggestions for telling your story.  In addition, here are mp3 audio files with sample stories from Clinical Professor Meredith Ross, Director of the Frank J. Remington Center and a supervising attorney in the Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons Project (LAIP); Clinical Associate Professor Pete DeWind, Director of the Restorative Justice Project; and Adjunct Professor Eric Englund and Clinical Assistant Professor Anne Smith, Co-Directors of the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic.

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

Contact Us

For more information about this conference, please contact Meredith Ross or Adam Stevenson.

2011 Schedule

Below is a schedule of events for the 2011 Midwest Clinical Law Teachers Conference, a description of the plenary and concurrent sessions, and links to presenter information. 

This year's conference features a "track-based" format.  Centering on our general theme of experience-based stories, the sessions will explore one of three areas: Systemic Change, Client Stories, and Clinical Pedagogy.  We recommend that participants follow a given "track" to best benefit from this format.  However, you are free to explore the various sessions of the conference with your own focus in mind.  For a PDF of this schedule in table form, please click here.

For directions and a map for traveling from the Lowell Center to the Law School, please click here.


1:00 p.m.-3:15 p.m. 
Registration - Law School Atrium

3:15 p.m.
Opening Remarks - Meredith Ross

3:30 p.m.-4:45 p.m.
"Humanizing Your Client in the Court of Public Opinion"
Plenary - Sally Norvell, Forensic Media

Presentation Video

5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Cocktail Reception

6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Dinner - John Steuart Curry Room, University of Wisconsin Law School Library
Welcome by Dean Margaret Raymond
Performance by First Wave, University of Wisconsin Spoken Word and Hip Hop Arts Learning Community

8:15 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Saving David Powell, a film by Sally Norvell


8:30 a.m.
Coffee - Law School Atrium

9:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m.
"'Don't Cite Law to Me!'  How Clinical Practice Transforms Law Students into Lawyers"
Plenary - Gina Calabrese and Ann Goldweber

10:15 a.m.
Break - Coffee and Pastries Provided

10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m.
Concurrent Sessions

12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.
Lunch - Alumni Room, University of Wisconsin Pyle Center
Guest Speaker: Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson

1:15 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
Concurrent Sessions

2:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Break - Light Refreshments Provided

2:45 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Concurrent Sessions

4:00 p.m.-4:15 p.m.
Break - Light Refreshments Provided

4:15 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Concurrent Sessions

7:00 p.m. 
Dinner on the Capitol Square and State Street - For those interested, groups will meet at the Lowell Center, the conference hotel, at 6:30 and depart for various restaurants on Madison's Capitol Square and historic State Street.  Menus and more information about the restaurant choices will be in your conference materials.


8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
Clinical Law Affinity Groups - Law School Atrium (Coffee and Light Refreshments Provided)

9:45 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Concurrent Sessions

11:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
Break - Light Refreshments Provided

11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
"He Got in My Face, So I Shot Him': When Your Client Doesn't Do Stories."
Plenary - Herschella Conyers, Eileen Hirsch, and Michele LaVigne

Presentation Video


Presentation Descriptions

"Humanizing Your Client in the Court of Public Opinion"
Sally Norvell, Forensic Media

Demonstration of how using new media can influence press and public opinion, and generate public awareness and advocacy for your client.

Presentation Video

"Don't Cite Law to Me!'  How Clinical Practice Transforms Law Students into Lawyers"
Gina Calabrese and Ann Goldweber, St. John's University School of Law

Clinics utilize journaling and roundtable discussions as ways for students to reflect on their experiences representing clients and exploring their roles as attorneys. The presenters will use three student reflections, captured on video, to stimulate discussion of student experiences in a civil litigation clinic that represents the elderly in consumer and real estate fraud matters.  The panelists will discuss how the “grit” of legal practice challenges students’ assumptions, theories and expectations of practice, which may have been formed by both their non-clinical legal education, and the media, among other influences. The panel will consider how we, as clinicians, can shepherd our students through the process of adapting their previous beliefs about the American justice system to the new observations they are making about that system. How can we acknowledge both the ideals and the reality of justice, while remaining effective advocates for clients from vulnerable communities?

Telling Stories, Making Change: Using Narrative to Advance Systemic Advocacy through Community Education, Mobilization, and Legislative Advocacy”
Marcy Karin
, Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law; Lisa Martin, Catholic University Columbus School of Law; and Jaime Dahlstedt, Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law

This interactive session will explore some of the ways the presenters incorporated narrative into systems change work in their clinics, including: collecting the stories of women residing at an emergency domestic violence shelter to better understand how to work with them in monthly legal clinics; using stories to develop talking points and written testimony in support of legislation enhancing housing protections for people who have experienced domestic violence; and incorporating stories about workplace flexibility for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and employed low-income nursing mothers into blog posts, press releases, and comments to regulatory bodies to advance thoughtful public policy and mobilize a community.

"Race, Class, and Gender in the Courtroom"
Geneva Brown, Valparaiso University School of Law

African American women who seek protection from law enforcement and the courts encounter a legal system that has fixed notions of African Americans as more susceptible and amenable to violence. Racial and gender stereotyping impact how successful African American woman can access the full panoply of services and protection promised to victims of intimate partner violence. If African American women engage in self-defense in battering relationships, they are viewed as culpable to the abuse that is meted out by their intimate partner. If African American women seek the protection of law enforcement, the encounters can be caustic. If African American women seek orders of protection, the narrative must contain the battered woman paradigm which does not reflect their experiences. The legal system adopts a dilatory approach in its perceptions of African American women as victims of intimate partner violence. Class intermingled with race and gender exacerbates the laggard effect.

As the director of a Domestic Violence Clinic, the presenter will review of the treatment of one client who sought an order of protection. The Family court treated the client with disdain, and it took several hearings before she was able to have an order of protection be fully enforced. The court expressed doubt as to her legitimate fear and abuse.The  client was treated more harshly than other women the presenter represented. In her appearance and demeanor, she was a poor African American woman. The court did not let her forget her status. She would ask, what does it take to get justice. This presentation, and accompanying article, is the response.

"Fish Soup. Or, A Funny Thing Happened on Our Way to Interdisciplinarity"
Meg Gaines, University of Wisconsin Law School; Sarah Davis, University of Wisconsin Law School; Kathleen O'Connell, University of Wisconsin Law School; Aphra Mednick, University of Wisconsin Law School; and Lael Sheber, University of Wisconsin Law School

Listening is a critical skill for lawyers of all stripes, as well as all other professional disciplines.  Traditional forays into interdisciplinarity focus on bringing professionals from diverse fields together to contribute their unique perspectives to create a better, more whole and therefore holistic, view of the client's story, as well as the resources available in approaching it.  The Center for Patient Partnerships brought together a diverse representation of educators and learners with just such an interdisciplinary model in mind.

But a funny thing happened on the way to our interdisciplinary model: namely Fish Soup, or what we now understand for ourselves to be Transdisciplinary Soup.  Much like the Hmong notion of Fish Soup, we are reminded that our client's worlds are full of things that may not seem to be connected, but actually are. It is with this unique and nuanced listening that good soup cooks are forever changed.

This session will focus on listening - on how we can prepare and position ourselves to hear the richness our clients' stories contain.  Case studies and participant exercises will help us learn together to prepare Transdisciplinary Soup.

"How to Use Storytelling to Advance the Safe Schools Movement"
Robert Salem, University of Toledo College of Law

Students and faculty in The Safe School Project at the University of Toledo College of Law Legal Clinic use storytelling to advance almost every aspect of the Project’s mission. The functions of the Project include advocating for children victimized by bullying, training educators to recognize and understand their legal rights and responsibilities, assisting schools in the adoption of effective anti-bullying policies and practices, and partnering with other entities to advance sensible policies and laws regarding bullying.

The stories of children, teachers, parents, and even school districts are essential to each of these functions. Law students learn to be better advocates by understanding and learning to convey the stories of bullied kids; Middle and High School teachers and administrators are better able to understand the needs of their students through stories of affected kids and other educators; and policymakers become more motivated to take up the safe school cause by understanding the stories of all stakeholders, especially the children.

This session will describe how the Safe School Project uses storytelling, and its impact on law students and the broader community.

"Translating Client Narrative in an Interdisciplinary Practice"
Debra Chopp, University of Michigan Law School; Elizabeth Hubertz, Washington University School of Law; Beth Martin, Washington University School of Law

It goes without saying that in an interdisciplinary law practice,  everyone shares the goal of helping the clients. In such a practice, though, it is inevitable that we interpret their stories through our own unique professional cultures and rules of ethics, and assess client needs and desired outcomes through these same prisms.  It can be challenging to make sure everyone is heard, whether they are the students, the different professionals, or even the clients.

Our experience leads us to ask how stories impact problem solving and the development of strategies for clients. How do law stories, medical stories, science stories and client stories differ?  How do they intersect? And what can we do about it?

The panel will explore this question through the use of role play, examples from their teaching, and discussions of others’ experiences.

Presentation Materials

Down to The Wire: How Popular Narratives about the Criminal Justice System Influence Client and Student Experiences in the Clinical Context”
Kimberly Alderman
and Byron Lichstein, University of Wisconsin Law School

Through the lens of the HBO program The Wire, this session contemplates how popular narratives about the criminal justice system influence client and student perspectives in the clinical context.

The presentation first identifies popular narratives that influence clinical clients and students and considers whether the two perspectives are influenced in similar or contrasting ways.  The presentation goes on to consider which narrative-endorsed preconceptions about the criminal justice system clinical instructors struggle against.  Next, the session explores how clinical instructors can exploit existing popular narratives to the benefit of clients and students.  The session then examines how the interface between clinical programs and the media affect developing popular narratives.  The presentation closes with recommendations on how to use that potential influence to the benefit of everyone involved in the clinical experience: clients, students and instructors alike.

Presentation PowerPoint

"Using Clinical Work to Address Systemic Change"
Keith Findley
and Mary Prosser, University of Wisconsin Law School; Emily Hughes, University of Iowa College of Law; Ann Juergens, William Mitchell College of Law; Gina Calabrese, St. John's University School of Law

This panel will discuss ways to use our clinical work to address systemic issues in our laws, courts, and communities. Panelists will briefly describe ways in which they have done this in their clinics- examples include amicus briefs; collaborations with social scientists; empirical research; working with institutional players such as law enforcement, the judiciary, and legislators to improve laws and policies (for example, on identification and recording custodial statements); legislative proposals; and white papers.

This program will feature sequenced sessions, with brief presentations and follow up questions constituting the first session as a means of starting the discussion and of providing examples of what is possible. Then the session will break into smaller groups that will collaborate on ideas to communicate what we know to broader audiences and to shape/reform the policies and laws that affect our clients and their communities.  The panel then will have the small groups share their discussions in a reconstituted large group.

Systemic Change Efforts by University of Wisconsin Clinical Faculty

"Same Facts, Different Story: How Perspective Changes Observation"
Jerry Foxhoven
, Drake University Law School; and Mary Jo Hunter, Hamline University School of Law

Each client comes to his or her attorney with a different background and perspective. Young lawyers and law students often mistakenly believe that “the facts are the facts”, and yet the client’s background causes them to see the facts in an entirely different light. As a result, two witnesses to an event can hear an entirely different story.

This interactive session will use a short (10 minute) film (“The Lunch Date”) showing a factual scenario. The participants in the session will then be divided into two sections and each will be given a different descriptive background for the main character in the film. The film will then be watched again and the participants will identify observations that are consistent with the background/perspective that they were given. A general discussion will then ensue concerning the effect of background on a person’s understanding of facts.

The presenters will conclude with a discussion of white privilege and how the short film also illustrates some key concepts of white privilege. The discussion will involve the perspectives of people of color and white people in identical situations and how the perspective of race and privilege changes the perspective of parties and witnesses to an event.

"New Clinicians and Reflections on First-Year Teaching"
Laura McNally
, Case Western Reserve University School of Law; and Rosa Fraizer and Julia Putinsev, University of Wisconsin Law School

Inspired by CLEA’s annual new clinicians program, this session will focus on the issues faced by newer clinicians. The presenters will lead a self-reflective discussion of “lessons learned” in their first-year of teaching. Attendees will also be asked to reflect on and share their first-year teaching experiences (even if it was a few years ago). The presenters will incorporate specific theory and techniques regarding two common issues: 1) Student Supervision and 2) How to Teach Reflection in Clinics and Externships.

This session will continue with a specific experience of a new clinician and her student.  While in the University of Wisconsin Law School's Economic Justice Institute's Domestic Violence Immigration Clinic, the clinician and student assisted a domestic abuse victim with a visa application.  After several false starts, failures, and breakdowns in communication, both were able to help the client move forward.  The presenters will discuss how it is important it is to not only give the client time to provide details of their story, but that the story is never ending and that many various tales can come from one event.

"The Quality of Mercy is Not Strained': Using Storytelling to Help Clinic Students Connect with Clients and Courts"
Hugh Mundy
, Nova Southeastern University Law Center; and Alison Siegler, University of Chicago Law School

This presentation will contain three levels of storytelling: storytelling in advocacy, storytelling in pedagogy, and storytelling in action. On the advocacy front, the presenters will propose ideas for using storytelling to teach students in criminal defense clinics how to be more effective advocates for their clients during sentencing hearings. On the pedagogical front, the panel will propose ideas for using storytelling to help connect our students with their clients. Finally, the presenters will address the theme of the conference by integrating narrative into the substance, content, and form of their presentation.

"Back to the Future: Learner Memoir Writing Meets 21st Century Technology"
Sarah Davis, University of Wisconsin Law School; Kathleen O'Connell, University of Wisconsin Law School; Aphra Mednick, University of Wisconsin Law School; Marc Korobkin, University of Wisconsin Law School; and Jessica Gilkison, University of Wisconsin Law School

Lawyering and professional practice in the 21st Century require adaptability, collaboration, and lifelong learning. At the Center for Patient Partnerships, an interdisciplinary health advocacy educational center, we emphasize critical reflection to ensure our students are experiencing significant learning and gaining the lifelong love of learning that will guide them in their future practice.

In Spring 2011, the Center added a Significant Learning Experiences Video project (adapted from a previous written learning memoir exercise) to our repertoire with spectacular results. We simply invited students to record a significant (or powerful) learning experience they have had since they began advocating for patients in the Center’s clinical. Because the notion of memoir is considered to be both individual and communal, the Center asked participating students to discuss a few things that they learned and would be willing to share.

This interactive session will share excerpts from the Center's videos, discuss the evolving nature of the project, share foundational knowledge, provide an opportunity for attendees to create a Significant Learning video relevant to clinical teaching – which the Center will collate and distribute after the Conference, and learn from each other about significant learning/critical reflection exercises used by other clinics.

"I Finally Listened: Birth of the Clemency Project"
Joann Sahl
, University of Akron School of Law

This session will focus on the birth of the Clemency Project at the University of Akron School of Law. The project began in 2008, and it assists low-income clients with obtaining a gubernatorial pardon of their criminal convictions. The project began for one reason – nearly every low-income client seeking our assistance had multiple criminal convictions. Although other clinics were addressing the client’s presenting legal problem, our clients could not achieve meaningful self-sufficiency with their omnipresent criminal record.

The session will discuss how the Clemency Project leveraged resources to support the clinic including collaboration with the local legal aid organization that screens and refers our cases, the use of undergraduate students who assist through work-study, and the use of volunteer law students to represent the clients. It will discuss how notwithstanding the governor’s decision, the Clemency Project has a positive impact on our clients by allowing them to tell their stories. It also has a positive impact on the law students working in the project, and the Parole Board, by allowing them to see the clients and not their convictions. The session will also detail how the Clemency Project has tried to bring legislative change to Ohio law.

"Building Cross-Cultural Competence Where None Exists – The Challenges of Teaching Diversity Skills in a Homogenous Environment"
Christina Misner-Pollard
Casey Ross-Petherick, and Tiffany Murphy, Oklahoma City University School of Law

This session will focus on the challenges of teaching cross-cultural competencies in a clinical environment. Panelists will present a short lecture, using specific examples of the cultural aspects of client representation in their respective clinics, and then will engage participants in two demonstration exercises.

The exercises are focused to provide the participants with an understanding of the student experience as an outsider in various client situations. The session will conclude with open discussion about best practices in implementing culturally-focused material in classroom and clinical teaching.

Presentation PowerPoint

"Using the Experience of Adjuncts in Narrative Theory and Storytelling"
Larry McDonough, Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis

Many clinical programs have expanded the use of adjuncts to serve more students with limited budgets and staffing. Adjuncts can share a lot with students about the life experiences they have witnessed and in which they have participated, but often they receive little education and support on how to best present their experience to students.  The presenter will discuss methods for supporting adjuncts to use their experience in teaching narrative theory and storytelling to students.

"He Got in My Face, So I Shot Him': When Your Client Doesn't Do Stories."
Herschella Conyers
, University of Chicago Law School; Elieen Hirsch, Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office; and Michele LaVigne, University of Wisconsin Law School

Decades of research have shown that language impairments and deficits occur at a substantially increased rate among individuals with ADHD, learning disorders, conduct disorders, and those raised in extreme poverty. One of the most notorious effects of these impairments is narrative deficit - an inability to effectively tell a story and to effectively comprehend a story. The implications for an attorney representing a client who doesn't "do" stories are wide-ranging. The panel will discuss the phenomenon of narrative deficit, the implications, and possible strategies for overcoming it.

Presentation Video

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