The staff and faculty of the Mills Legal Clinic (MLC) recognize that racism, and specifically anti-Black racism, permeates legal and social institutions and deeply affects all of our work.
As educators and lawyers, we are committed to combatting racism. Despite our efforts, however, we have not made adequate advancements in creating a sufficiently inclusive, diverse, and equitable learning and working environment.
The continued murders of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement and the ongoing discrimination against and disparate treatment of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals in areas ranging from education, health care, environmental, immigration, technology, corporate, and beyond compel us to revisit our commitment to teaching about race and systems of oppression in a renewed and pressing way.
As a clinic whose pedagogy is centered around training the next generation of lawyers, we have a responsibility to teach these injustices, to work to rectify inequities, to create inclusive classrooms and workspaces, and to continue to learn and grow with cultural humility.
For general rounds, social scientist Sean-Darling Hammond, explained the basics of bias as it manifests in legal clinics and the legal profession and shared tools for how students can engage in de-biasing.
Washington Supreme Court Justice, Raquel Montoya-Lewis, spoke during grand rounds about her engagement with anti-racism and DE&I practices.
The Mills Legal Clinic faculty and staff engage in a clinic-wide event around the works of Ibram X. Kendi.
Principles Governing Our Work
- First, it is not enough to talk about diversity and equity without also addressing racism, including centering anti-Black racism.
- Second, for change to happen, it must involve all of us. Allyship is critical to lasting, meaningful change. Allyship, and all our anti-racism and DE&I work, must grapple with the hierarchies of our workplace and the structures of the institution in which we operate.
- Third, this work is hard and we will all make mistakes. How we recover from those mistakes will be an important marker of our success.
- Fourth, we see this work as central to the MLC’s service and education mission. We cannot effectively serve our clients unless we engage deeply with the structural racism that has marked all their (and our) lives. We can only teach our students how to be effective advocates if we also teach them about engaging in this work with a cultural humility lens and a commitment to debiasing.
Deepening Engagement within Each Individual Clinic
Individual Clinics Working Group
We believe that each clinic within the MLC can further deepen its engagement with DE&I and anti-racism work. This subcommittee conducted research resulting in detailed recommendations, exercises with accompanying instructions, sample lecture notes, a bibliography of informative articles addressing the need for and ways to implement anti-bias principles into clinical pedagogy, and a variety of templates that clinics can adjust and incorporate in ways that are meaningful, effective, and appropriate. The group shared these materials with the full MLC for use in the ’20-’21 academic year. Moving forward, this subcommittee will continue to collect new and revised teaching materials to add to the general repository of teaching materials, with revisions on a quarterly basis, and plans to convene a quarterly, all-instructor meeting to share and reflect on materials and exercises being integrated into the work of each clinic.
Centering DE&I Principles in Rounds Teaching
Rounds Working Group
Over the ’20-’21 academic year, under the leadership of this subcommittee, MLC substantially revised and expanded our Rounds teaching to deepen its focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism. The MLC typically conducts two types of Rounds: (1) Grand Rounds, in which all currently enrolled MLC students gather for a large-group session; and (2) General Rounds, in which the MLC students are broken up into small cross-clinic groups that meet periodically over the course of a clinic quarter to discuss their clinical work. As part of our deeper engagement with DE&I and anti-racism work, we decided to focus all of the Rounds sessions on engaging with DE&I/anti-racism. To do so, we implemented new, interactive, and social-science-based teaching techniques in a range of ways.
We created an entirely new curriculum for general rounds in the ’20-’21 academic year, in consultation with leading social scientists, the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Stanford Office for Inclusion, Belonging, and Intergroup Communication, and drawing on the materials created by SPARQ (https://sparq.stanford.edu/). The rounds programming consists of four small group student-facing sessions, facilitated by an experienced clinical instructor. In these sessions, the instructor started by establishing trust and connection, engaged in interactive discussions of identity, worked through a real-time hypothetical about bias created from student input, and discussed instances of bias that presented in their own clinical work. In order to prepare for these sessions, students watched a video, developed in collaboration with social scientist Sean Darling-Hammond, that explained the basics of bias as it manifests in legal clinics and the legal profession and shared tools for how students can engage in de-biasing.
To support our teachers in facilitating this new curriculum, we created new teacher training materials. The training consists of two in-person sessions with a trainer from the Center for Teaching and Learning, using the SPARQ and other tools. In addition, we created detailed lesson plans for use in each of the student-facing sessions.
In addition to the small-group general rounds session, we met once per quarter as a full-clinic group with a leader in the legal profession who has engaged with anti-racism and DE&I practices. In the fall and winter quarters, the speaker was Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis of the Washington Supreme Court. In the spring quarter, the speakers will be Henry Fong from LinkedIn and Tirien Steinbach, former Executive Director of the East Bay Community Law Clinic. We anticipate continuing to evolve and deepen this programming in future years.
Implementing a Culture of Inclusion & Healing
Community Working Group
Beyond our student-facing efforts, we focused on implementing a culture of inclusion and healing within the Mills Legal Clinic. We have worked to hold clinic-wide events around the works of Robin D’Angelo and Ibram X. Kendi and are planning for clinic-wide trainings to be held in the summer of 2021, with the goal of strengthening debiasing and cultural humility frameworks for Clinic faculty and staff; exploring restorative practices that address how to recover from critical incidents through healing, restoring, and repairing relationships; and recommending principles of diversity to inform day-to-day clinic operations.
Engaging Allies Through our Teaching & Lawyering
Allyship Working Group
We recognize that, given the demographics of the MLC, any DE&I and anti-racism work in the MLC must actively engage allies who do not identify as people of color. We are focused not only on allyship within our professional MLC community, but also on bringing allyship to our teaching and lawyering. Part of the work of being an ally involves recognizing the implicit and explicit bias that permeate the lives of colleagues of color, and the disproportionate burden borne by these colleagues to power and promote diversity.
We believe allyship provides a framework through which those of privilege can come to analyze their role in the fight against group-based hierarchy and develop a vocabulary of that role. Allyship is the mechanism by which those who have privilege pledge themselves – in word and in deed – to take racism seriously even when they don’t “have to.” Allyship is the practice of recognizing the centrality of racism to American life, including those features of American life in which we participate every day – our neighborhoods, our social worlds, our workplaces, and our legal institutions. We believe allyship must include, as Professor Ibram X. Kendi explains, acting in an affirmatively anti-racist manner rather than simply acting in a non-racist manner.
Allies within the MLC space took on the principal responsibility for organizing, with input from others in the MLC, two discussion sessions centered around White Fragility (by Robin D’Angelo) and How to be an Anti-Racist (by Ibram X. Kendi). Moving forward, we hope to engage allies in establishing restorative values and consider norms/protocols to respond to critical incidents and conduct regular events on anti-racism and anti-bias. We will endeavor to maintain a focus on racism, while acknowledging other systems of social group hierarchy also demand allyship from the privileged.