The Cultural (Re)Turn: The Case for Teaching Culturally Responsible Lawyering


Recent changes to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) accreditation standards require law schools to adopt learning outcomes that demonstrate competencies for legal practice and to measure progress toward this goal. Absent from the new requirements, however, is any mention of “culture.” Instead, “cultural competence” is included as an optional skill, which law schools may choose to identify and measure (or not). But culture is anything but optional. In light of contributions from psychology and cognitive science, and calls from the bench and bar, law schools can no longer avoid including culture in meaningful, sustained, and integrated instruction throughout the curriculum. Building on critical legal scholarship and the movement to foster cross-cultural lawyering competencies in clinical education, this article proposes culturally responsive lawyering as a new orienting framework for legal education and for law practice. Culturally responsive lawyering specifically rejects the notion that cultural competence is an optional skill, divorced from other core competencies. Rather, culturally responsive lawyering is grounded in a deliberative process, which extends deeper than outward-facing performative skills. Culturally responsive lawyering acknowledges that culture and law exist in a mutually constitutive relationship and employs both transformative legal analysis and intercultural sensibility to meet the ethical requirements of competent lawyering. In addition to sketching a theoretical framework, this article proposes learning outcomes and curricular strategies for culturally responsive lawyering that can be interwoven into any law school course.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • L. Danielle Tully, The Cultural (Re)Turn: The Case for Teaching Culturally Responsible Lawyering, 16 Stan. J. C.R. & C.L. 201 (2020).
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