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MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR – NOVEMBER 2021

Dear AALS, Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities Section Friends,

A wise human said, “Compassion is wisdom plus love.”  I do not know who actually said that quote but given the state of the world and the work we do, it really spoke to me as I thought of you all and the amazing things you are building and moving forward on your law school campuses, local communities, legal profession, and the world.  As I wind down my year as Chair, I want to say thank you to all of you who have jumped in, taken on a task or event, and helped support the Section.  And please keep it up! Thank you!!!

With too many issues on the access to justice agenda and needing pro bono attention, I invite you all to take a moment – and just be – be still, be quiet, be reflective, and as another famous human once said – be a human ‘be-ing’ instead of a human ‘do-ing.’  As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence.  It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  While political warfare is a strong statement, this is the kind of warfare we should all be engaging in – taking care of ourselves, so we can take care of others as we all work to repair and heal the world, with love and with wisdom.

These days I am learning from many teachers, and I wanted to share two recent articles that have spoken to me in very profound ways – and I make no claim to objectivity, as these are two dear friends doing important work in our field:

  1. Anne Gordon, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Externships, Duke Law School, has written a piece – Better Than our Biases:  Using Psychological Research to Inform Our Approach to Inclusive, Effective Feedback, in the Spring 2021, Clinical Law Review.  Anne’s article will introduce you to biases you probably did not even know you had, or at least did not know the name for them, and even more importantly, she provides insights and tools into how to confront these biases and support students in their learning.  While her focus is on feedback in the clinical/externship world, there are many lessons for pro bono and public service faculty and staff as we strive to ensure that all feel welcomed into our programs.
  2. Janet Thompson Jackson, Professor of Law, Washburn University School of Law, has written Wellness and Law: Reforming Legal Education to Support Student Wellness, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3839050  (forthcoming 65 Howard L.J. 1 (Fall 2021)).  Janet looks at professional identity through an interesting and innovative lens, putting forth the concept that wellness, including mindfulness and other practices, are a critical component in raising the next generation of legal professionals. She introduces concepts and provides tools to help think about these concepts and frame them in our work with students. 

In these scary and difficult moments, I hope you are holding your loved ones close and taking time to be grateful for all you have and the path ahead. 

As the Section prepares for the transition to the 2022 year with new officers and new projects, if you are interested in coming on board and helping to lead these efforts, please contact Kiva Zytnick, zytnick@cua.edu to learn more. I close by expressing my gratitude and acknowledge my good fortune in getting to work with many of you – thank you, you keep me going.

– Sue Schechter