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I. Context: Government and Politics Today as the Backdrop to Legal
   A. Attacks on the Media
   B. Attacks on the Rule of Law and the Justice System
   C. Normalizing Incivility in Public Discourse and Deteriorating
   D. Beyond the United States
II. Renewed Emphasis on the Role of Lawyers in Society
III. Teaching Law Students in a New Era
IV. Four Essential Skills for These Times
   A. Rigorous Investigation and Identification of Facts and How to
      Establish the Existence of a Fact
   B. Effective Communication and Other Relational Skills
   C. Self-Regulation to Help Students Identify When Their Work is in
      Conflict With Their Values
   D. Self-Care Strategies to Help Students Identify Positive
      Responses to the Stresses of Working in Challenging Environments


In 2016, Donald Trump, a former reality television star, began his first press conference as President-elect of the United States challenging negative media reports as "fake news." Since then, he has regularly labeled the media as "fake news" and "fraudulent." His medium of choice to communicate to the American people is the social media platform Twitter, where he has approximately 31 million followers. Following Trump's installation as President of the United States in January of 2017, U.S. citizens began experiencing a style of governing that has never been seen before. Trump's provocative and disruptive style defied conventions and norms of behavior that Americans had come to expect of their presidents. Trump, his then chief strategist Steve Bannon, and his administration pursued an aggressive agenda of "deconstruction of the administrative state." (4)

The tone for Trump's presidency was set early in an interview given by his Counselor, Kellyanne Conway, in response to charges that then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's statement about the number of people in attendance at the Trump Inauguration ceremony was false. She stated that Spicer was giving "alternative facts" in response to charges that Spicer gave a false statement about the attendance numbers at Trump's inauguration ceremony. (5) Thereafter, the actions of Trump and his administration were subject to media scrutiny and public protest, an early example of which were the large and almost instantaneous protests at major U.S. airports in response to the first incarnation of the "travel ban," enacted via Executive Order 13769 in early 2017. (6)

As legal educators in the United States, we are challenged with the task of preparing law students to practice in a world in which democratic values, rights, protections, and legal processes are under grave threat. Our approach to raising these concerns among our colleagues and identifying how our teaching should change as a result, is a framework of rebuttable observations offered for discussion. Neither of us have dispositive answers to the fundamental challenges facing us as legal educators.

Legal educators are uniquely positioned to positively influence the ways in which students construct a professional identity that helps them deal with what may be experienced as helplessness or outrage. Law students must learn how to correct their misreading of actual circumstances and how to minimize their reactive behavior in response to the current overload of harmful governmental actions. They must also possess an accurate understanding of the framework that controls the changes they are experiencing. The pervasive use of, as well as the normalizing of, deception by our national government is eroding our shared sense that we all are governed by an adherence to the rule of law and a common approach to establishing facts. Our common sense of moral values is weakened, as well as our adherence to professional ethics. (7)

In fact, statements and actions by Trump and his administration effectively manipulate how our brains process information. George Lakoff, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, explains that Mr. Trump's tweets fall within four basic techniques for manipulating our reactions to his words and actions: preemptive framing, diversion, deflection, and trial balloon. (8) Lakoff has offered suggestions for mitigating the impact of this pervasive assault on our cognitive capacity. These suggestions are appropriate to include among our teaching techniques and we will discuss his specific suggestions at the end of this paper. One way to mitigate these reactions is to equip our students with metacognitive capacity or clinical self-awareness, an essential capacity for effective lawyering in our disruptive environment. (9) As educators, we must help students learn to become lawyers who have such skills.

We began exploring these ideas in an effort to make sense of our abruptly changed circumstances following the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This paper is the result of sharing our professional challenges in teaching and in clinical case supervision with each other. Our efforts to understand these new challenges in training resilient socially responsible lawyers led to our interactive seminar at the July 2017 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education (IJCLE) conference held at Northumbria School of Law in Newcastle, England. Colleagues attending our seminar strongly encouraged us to present our work to multiple audiences. Hence, we wrote this paper in addition to presenting these ideas at other conferences. As history unfolds, our understanding of what lawyering means under these circumstances continues to evolve.

We share our reflections in this paper on the developing imperatives in legal education with the understanding that our landscape is rapidly changing in context. We also acknowledge that our articulation of the four essential lawyering skills are not new inventions in instruction. Rather, it is the importance of these skills in our new climate, as well as the need to teach them in this new context, which makes them higher priorities among our teaching goals. Furthermore, the teaching of these essential skills must be contextualized differently. We urge our teaching colleagues to make difficult teaching choices among competing topics and select these skills for more intense treatment.

This paper proceeds in five parts. The first is an exploration of the current context of political conditions in the United States and other countries around the world, and how these conditions shape citizens' perceptions of and the functioning of the rule of law. It will also examine how a climate of anti-Freedom of the Press results in destabilization and uncertainty and affects long-held beliefs about how systems of government work and how governments engage with one another. The second part of the paper identifies examples of how these conditions have changed or placed renewed emphasis on the role of lawyers in society, and how lawyers must continue to seek justice while working within the law. The third part of the paper recognizes that, while well-trained lawyers play a key role in protecting and advancing democracy, it is essential that law schools, who are training new entrants to the profession, examine how they are educating in this context. The fourth part of the paper identifies four essential skills that law students must learn and cultivate in order to thrive in this new era of lawyering: 1) Rigorous investigation and identification of facts, and how to establish the existence of a fact; 2) Effective communication approaches that encourage productive dialogue; 3) Self-regulation to help students identify when their work is in conflict with their values; and 4) Self-care to help students identify positive responses to the stresses of working in challenging environments. The conclusion offers additional recommendations and concludes that current societal conditions require an urgent emphasis on these skills as being essential to prepare the lawyers of tomorrow.


Law students do not learn law disconnected from the reality of how law actually operates outside the walls of law school. An understanding of political and social movements, and how the law relates to them, is essential to their overall understanding of justice. Recent dramatic changes in philosophy, style, and approach to governing have proved disorienting and disruptive. These changes influence how law is made, interpreted, enforced, and respected. These changes also affect how the public views the procedures for creating and enforcing law. More critically, they affect how law students understand law in action.

At the time of this writing, Donald Trump has completed his first year as president. This anniversary has inspired dozens of commentators to reflect on the impact of his administration, including its impact on democracy, justice, and the rule of law. A full catalogue of the administration's actions that threaten the rule of law is beyond the scope of this paper. Here, we focus on the impact of the persistent attacks on the media, on existing law, on the judiciary, and the normalizing of incivility in public discourse. We also discuss how these external factors hinder the ability of law students, who are developing their understanding of law and of how law works, to prepare for the reality of becoming actors in a functioning justice system.

A. Attacks on the Media

Trump and his administration's tactics of delegitimizing the media, by using terms such as "alternative facts," and calling unfavorable reports "fake news," has negatively impacted the ability of the mainstream media to publicize important factual information. Since declaring his run for the presidency in June 2015, Trump has posted approximately 1,000 tweets critical of the press. (10) These actions call into question a fundamental democratic institution in our country that is not open to question. While mainstream media may have and demonstrate bias, they do not publish stories that are untrue. Stories are rigorously fact-checked. When an error is discovered, mainstream media issues a correction and errors in reporting are treated as grave events. (11)

It has been observed that Trump is not so much at war with the media as he is at war with the truth. (12) Since the inauguration, reputable fact checkers have stated that Mr. Trump averages approximately five misstatements of fact every day. (13) Trump's press attacks have encouraged the spread of falsehoods via alternative media sources. These tactics undermine journalists who are investigating and publishing facts; equating them with alternative news sources such as Breitbart, which intentionally publishes fake news. (14) If everything is "fake," then everyone can choose the news they like. By popularizing the term "fake news," Trump has effectively rendered all media suspect. Attacks on central institutions such as the press are harmful to all institutions, and thus, attacking the press undermines democracy.

By calling anything that does not support or praise him and his ideas "fake news," Trump is able to shape ordinary citizens' beliefs about government and law to suit his agenda. These tactics, taken in their entirety, are designed to fatigue cognitive capacity while more systematically changing how the federal government operates without disclosure of the fundamental restructuring taking place. Moreover, the harmful impact of Trump's "fake news" allegations has spread to other countries, and the term is now being used as a cover for any activity for which a government wishes to disclaim responsibility. (15)

This misinformation campaign rests on leading as many people as possible "to think there is no such thing as knowable truth'" (16) This goal is more readily accomplished because a large portion of the public does not know how to distinguish fact from fiction, including ignorance about the "basic laws of the land". (17) For example, the general public lacks the basic understanding of certain concepts formerly taught to public school children in Civics or Government classes likely because only a few states require completion of these courses to graduate from high school.

Furthermore, at least one in three Americans fail the immigrant citizen test that evaluates a person's knowledge of U.S. history and government. (18) The public's ignorance as to these concepts creates the context which allows Trump to repeatedly regard all negative statements of facts about him as lies and the press' reporting of such facts as "fake news". In doing so, he declares the invalidity of basic constitutional principles such as freedom of the press and separation of powers, principles which he took an oath to uphold. (19)

B. Attacks on the Rule of Law and the Justice System

Like his attacks on the media, Trump has criticized preexisting laws, prior orders, and even individual judges to delegitimize the status quo. These are clear attacks on the rule of law and the justice system. Furthermore, the appointment of unqualified judges and cabinet members threatens the integrity of the justice system and government. Trump's attacks on judges whose rulings he disagrees with have caused some to question not only the harmful impact to the justice system but also whether such direct criticism endangers members of the judiciary by making them targets. (20) However, Trump's criticism of the judiciary began prior to his election. For example, in June 2016, he alleged that a U.S. District judge of Mexican heritage had an "absolute conflict" of interest and should not hear a case against Trump University because of Trump's campaign promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. (21)

Trump's direct attack on the credibility of judges destabilizes the rule of law and the expectations citizens have for justice. Even Trump's Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, reacted to Trump's criticisms of the judiciary as "demoralizing" and "disheartening." (22) Trump has further threatened the judiciary by nominating several judges deemed to be "unqualified" by the American Bar Association. (23) These actions, against both the federal judiciary and the federal administrative agencies charged with upholding the law, reduce the access to justice.

C. Normalizing Incivility in Public Discourse and Deteriorating Communication

There has been a steep decline in civility in public discourse following Trump's election. His use of coarse language, taunts, threats, and name-calling are too numerous to document. This widespread crassness normalizes incivility in society in general, as in the legal context. Before Trump's election and during his 2016 campaign, insults and gross mischaracterizations were not ordinary and acceptable parts of public speech, particularly by elected officials. However, now constant belittling and degrading references towards any opponent or opposing position of the Trump Administration have become commonplace. This behavior sends the message that this type of communication is effective for getting goals met and that it does not violate any commonly held sense of moral decency. Such incivility also sends the message that any negative impact of a particular communication does not matter. This level of incivility presents an obvious contradiction to law students between the high professional standards for principled communication when lawyering and the communication they see from the current Administration.

There has also been a sharp uptick in the prevalence of secrecy in the decision-making processes of the executive and legislative branches under the Trump Administration. The Administration has not modeled any open process for policy deliberation since the inauguration. (24) Furthermore, the Republican-led congress has failed to consult their Democratic colleagues when taking legislative action, a violation of prevailing rules and customs. (25) Senator John McCain, a Republican, refused to vote "yes" to repeal the Affordable Care Act because of his concerns that the deliberative process of the Senate was completely ignored. (26) In addition to excluding duly elected Democratic colleagues from the legislating process, the passage of the 2018 Tax Reform Act was pushed through both the House and the Senate without any public input. (27) At the time of this paper, the federal government was shut down for three days in part from the lack of transparency in the Administration's negotiation strategy. (28)

D. Beyond the United States

Finally, we note that the changes we face in the U.S. are not an isolated exception among democracies globally, further framing the context in which our students learn. A long list of democracies around the world are dealing with the rise of nationalist populism. We provide some illustrations, not exhaustive, of events in other democracies, many of which precede the democratic decline in the U.S.

Several of our international colleagues have extensive experience teaching law while their democratic institutions are under severe attack. Across Europe, "traditional centrist political parties... [have been] reel[ing] from historic losses." (29) The movement in the U.K. to leave the EU was motivated by nativist-tinged rhetoric resulting in the "yes" vote for "Brexit," a vote to leave that multi-national organization which is based upon democratic values. (30) Germany's far-right party, Alternative for Deutschland, has grown into a large organization over the past three years and is now influencing the decisions of the German democratic government. (31) Nationalist political parties in France and Italy are experiencing similar successes to the far right in Germany. (32) The International Refugee Crisis faced by many European governments is leading to alt-right governing sentiments that have many of these nations erecting fences and closing borders. (33) Recently, Poland's ruling nationalist political party took action to remove the independence of the judiciary and place it directly under control of the ruling party. (34) In November 2017, 60,000 people marched in Warsaw, Poland in what was described as one of the largest gatherings of far-right activists in Europe in recent years. (35) The current crisis in Poland is one more significant social/political upheaval affecting the stability of the European Union.

The foregoing is representative of the external reality for law students and the context in which legal educators must teach. For the past few decades, legal educators have observed that law students were grossly unaware of assumptions affecting their reasoning process. Formerly, while law teachers were attempting to develop students' ability to engage in more rigorous reasoning processes, law students were able to consistently observe the role of factual analysis as part of policy deliberations in the legislative process and in rule-making by their federal government. By contrast, law students today are observing their federal government erasing the very same processes they are learning.


Current conditions have placed renewed emphasis on the role of lawyers in society. Immigration, criminal justice, environmental, and other advocates have found ample opportunities to challenge law and policy under this administration. Moreover, the role of lawyers in shaping or resisting governmental control has become a renewed topic of interest. Lawyers seem to be having a moment. For example, lawyers played a central role and were lauded as heroes following their work in resisting the travel ban that was implemented in January 2017. (36) On the eve of the travel ban, thousands of lawyers organized and gathered in airports across the country to assist detained persons. (37) This response "inspired a sense of pride in the profession not experienced in years." (38) Suddenly, lawyers were popular. (39) ABA president Hilarie Bass reminded lawyers at the 2017 annual conference that they have the power to make a difference, and noted that "democracy functions best when there are lawyers prepared to protect it." (40)

Both law schools and the profession may benefit from this renewed interest in the law. Law schools are experiencing a surge in applications (known as the "Trump bump") in part from those inspired to attend law school to become advocates in the areas of human rights, immigration, and environmental law. (41) Moreover, there is a recognition that lawyers have a special role, if not responsibility, in opposing policies believed to be unconstitutional, unfair, or oppressive. Indeed, Trump's policies could be "thwarted by...the diligent, daily work of attorneys filing briefs, injunctions, suits and complaints." (42)


At a time when law students may be experiencing or witnessing injustice and disruption in legal and governmental systems, it is more critical than ever that law schools focus on skills that will prepare law students to face these challenges in practice. Law students are preparing to become professional participants in these changing systems and must learn skills to equip them to function effectively in legal environments that no longer operate in time-trusted ways. For example, among many new challenges for lawyers is the question of what is a "fact?" How should a lawyer operate in an environment of "fake news" and "alternative facts?" In what ways is a client affected by these conditions? More importantly, how can a lawyer promote justice in this context? First, by acknowledging that we are studying law in a changed context, and explicitly laying out this context, we can help students better understand the dissonance they may experience between learning about the law and what they observe about law in the external world. Second, by identifying essential skills, law schools can generate alternative approaches to promoting law students' self-awareness in core lawyering skills that will equip them for their legal work in the demanding conditions of today. This section includes faculty observations of law student attitudes, experiences, and responses to the events unfolding in the first year of the Trump administration.

It is important to remember that external forces shape student attitudes, beliefs and their motivations about what area of law to practice, and who and what they can become as lawyers. We, along with our colleagues, have observed students in the last year and noted some responses and reactions to current conditions. While we cannot prove causation, discussions among law teachers have generated several observations of situations we have not seen before. Given the current context, some students observe that there seems to be little incentive for actors in the justice system to play by the rules. Law students are also questioning the value of advocacy in individual cases as well as questioning the efficacy of engaging in the legislative process to change policy. One student articulated a belief that if the law does not support his client's position, he could ignore that law and argue something else, also noting that, "facts don't matter." Apart from a change in students' impressions of the legal system itself, other law professors have noted expressions of fear coming from their students, especially students of color, students whose families are immigrants, students who are LGBTQ, and others who are members of marginalized populations. (43) Others have identified students expressing a feeling of dissonance, disconnection, and loss. (44) Colleagues have also noticed that some law students are less engaged in the classroom and exhibit greater anxiety about the job market and their future careers. Some teachers have noticed a decline in students' actual effort on assignments, perhaps because of current stress levels. Still others reported more sharing from students on an emotional register. (45) On the positive side, professors also reported that they observed more instances of leadership, organizing, and solidarity in the form of new projects, such as projects to assist and/or provide legal advice to immigrants threatened with deportation (46).

Given the context of polarization noted above in section I of this paper, implementing reforms in legal education at a time when there is substantial political divisiveness and compromised civil discourse in general is challenging. (47) In this environment, legal educators are challenged to teach, model, and find positive examples of professional norms of law practice, including respect for the rule of law and professional engagement in legal processes. Their success is essential to future lawyers who will work in this environment, who must be able to respond to this new reality as professionals, as well as remain true to the ideals and values they hold as individuals.


It is assumed that skill in critical thinking is an outcome of the legal education process. That assumption is not disputed nor are we inventing a new clinical skills agenda, however, given the current conditions explored in this paper, teaching certain lawyering skills in the same way as previously done, and with the same level of attention, is no longer sufficient to prepare students to practice law in enduring and successful ways. This paper argues that the four skills discussed below must be given more emphasis and that we must explicitly address the context in which we teach them: the dissemination of values of the far right, current changes in the federal government, and the deterioration of the public welfare. Fortunately, legal education, and particularly clinical legal education, is flexible. Therefore, as legal educators, we must change our approach to fit the aforementioned context and circumstances, and promote the following skills: a) Rigorous investigation and identification of facts, and how to establish the existence of a fact; b) Effective communication approaches that encourage productive dialogue; c) Self-regulation to help students identify when their work is in conflict with their values; and d) Self-care to help students identify positive responses to the stresses of working in challenging environments

A. Rigorous Investigation and Identification of Facts and How to Establish the Existence of a Fact.

Today, more than ever, students must be able to thoughtfully investigate and identify evidence that establishes "facts." In the past, there was tacit agreement that facts in a case existed, although some might be disputed. For example, each side in a trial established facts through evidence and argued persuasively about their meaning and impact. In the Trump era, a fact is whatever is alleged, and anything to the contrary is "fake." It is essential that we place particular focus on rigorous fact investigation and challenge assertions of fact. The notion of "alternative facts" puts any investigation or search for the truth and justice at risk. Students must learn how to investigate and prove facts, and to subject all facts to a rigorous inquiry and analysis. Part of this process includes helping students to slow down and investigate their own assumptions and conclusions in order to cultivate and encourage a questioning mindset.

The current political, media, and social climates have placed a new imperative on all citizens to fully investigate and confirm factual assertions. While many law professors, and certainly clinical law professors, have taught fact development and investigation for decades, the current context demands special attention and rigor in teaching and ensuring that students develop skills in fact investigation and analysis. First is the development of a questioning mentality. This is the diligent practice of teaching students to question the validity of their own perceptions and inferences (assertions, assumptions, and conclusions). It is also the tedious development of looking behind alleged facts and probing for what must exist for the alleged fact to be true. Although quite brief, repeated opportunities for individual student reflection on their possible assumptions after assigned tasks bolsters the students' capacity to continue to question their assumptions when they no longer have the support of their teachers. (48) These opportunities can include short classroom discussion, short discussions at the end of tasks or the requirement of providing "minute" journaling in class or other contexts. Educators may also choose a more substantial assignment for discussion where students analyze their assumptions in specific cases or assignments.

Another approach is to ask students what permissible inferences flow from direct knowledge and what makes an inference or assumption reliable. The habit of practicing a questioning mentality helps students to counteract the reality of cognitive overload when dealing with a constant stream of misstatements or misrepresentations. (49) In fact, our brains operate with default functions that work against looking for the truth. We credit information that conforms with our beliefs and we discredit information that threatens our beliefs. These predictable distortions have been robustly researched and are commonly known as confirmation bias and reactive devaluation. (50) A great deal of this processing is subconscious; thus, we are inclined to automatically make these judgments without reflection. (51) Because fact investigation and analysis is an essential component of law and justice, this skill deserves special focus. Fact investigation and analysis is a skill taught regularly in law schools in several courses throughout the curriculum. We urge that law teachers continue doing so, but with special emphasis and attention because this skill is especially critical in this moment.

B. Effective Communication and Other Relational Skills

In the current climate of divisiveness, teaching and encouraging non-violent, non-defensive communication is now more of a priority in our teaching agenda. This means equipping students with skills to understand how to communicate effectively and, more importantly, how to listen with care and empathy. (52) We can no longer afford to tell our students that they must learn to listen better without explicitly teaching how to listen better. Communication that improves mutual understanding is an essential skill. Unfortunately, the quality of and respect for communication skills in society seem to be diminishing. There is significant popular commentary that no one in our society is "really" listening to each other. Americans are more "siloed" in life and in media, choosing to engage only with like-minded communities and media. A lack of trust and unwillingness to listen can destroy a sense of community, even among like-minded individuals. (53).

In order to prioritize teaching effective communication and other relational skills, legal educators should devote additional time to class instruction on these skills. One approach is to have students engage in an exercise involving one student sharing an important personal story followed by another student paraphrasing back their understanding of that story while the rest of the class observes. This allows students to learn what it means to give a meaningful playback of the speaker's story. Students are asked to demonstrate that they can listen intently by giving the speaker uninterrupted time for the first narration of the speaker's story. When giving feedback, we explicitly encourage student listeners to fully articulate the speaker's concerns. (54) When reviewing the law student's interpretation of the speaker's story, teachers ask when a student's assumption would be true and when that assumption might not be true. (55) Teachers can also engage in practicing the "3Cs" in communication at the end of meetings or class sessions: confirmation, clarification, and correction. First, everyone confirms whether their understanding was accurate. Second, everyone clarifies or elaborates upon their understanding. Third, everyone corrects points of misunderstanding.

Enhancing the way we teach students forms and methods of successful communication can also be done through a framework known as relationship-centered lawyering (RCL). A full explanation of this framework is beyond the scope of this paper (56), however, components of this approach and structure may be used to help students become competent and caring professionals who listen and communicate thoughtfully with clients, parties, neutrals, and others with whom they come into contact.

In addition to teaching communication and relational skills in the classroom, opportunities also exist outside the classroom. For example, Pepperdine University School of Law has instituted a program of "Open Conversations," which are moderated by faculty who are on the school's diversity council. The intent of these forums is to encourage community engagement in empathetic critical conversations with one another and to allow for the expression and listening of politically diverse points of view. Topics that have been addressed during these "Open Conversations" at Pepperdine include discussion of the sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement, and events in Ferguson, Missouri. Another example was the response of University of Florida's Frederic Levin School of Law during a controversial appearance at the university by Richard Spencer. Organizers at the law school convened an open forum on the First Amendment to take place during Spencer's speech. We advocate for legal educators to explore these and other opportunities. Students must learn effective communication skills both inside and outside the classroom.

C. Self-Regulation to Help Students Identify When Their Work is in Conflict with Their Values.

Self-regulation is recognized as an aspect of emotional intelligence by which an individual is able to act in response to his or her environment in a way that is socially appropriate and that is consistent with his or her internal values. Contrary to dominant belief, self-regulation is not a natural and automatic outcome from education. Teachers should explicitly address professional self-awareness in the classroom. This includes incorporating methods for self-reflective practice in order for students to cultivate self-awareness, responsibility, and wellness. Teaching students concepts that include meta-cognition, self-awareness or self-regulation, and to act consistently with their own values encourages self-correction as part of the lawyering process and professional development. This will enable them to be more effective in the demanding profession of law, and to better regulate their responses to challenging situations.

Furthermore, many colleagues acknowledge that building meta-cognitive ability/self-awareness is essential for the student to take corrective action as part of the lawyering process. Teachers model explicit self-regulation by correcting our mistakes in the midst of our teaching and lawyering. Self-correction increases personal motivation to do better next time, and by taking the risk to model these skills, we can intentionally provide the scaffolding for our students' learning. Furthermore, implementing reflection into the learning process enhances the chance that students will monitor their own learning and development, determine their own effectiveness, and identify strategies for how to apply those lessons to future situations.

D. Self-Care Strategies to Help Students Identify Positive Responses to the Stresses of Working in Challenging Environments.

Law school and the legal profession have long been identified as stress inducing, and the Trump presidency itself has been identified as causing and triggering stress responses in large numbers. (57) Law students may be particularly vulnerable to stress under these conditions. They have come to law school to learn the law and how to be lawyers. At the same time, they are bombarded constantly with headlines and tweets alleging that the law is not working, that it must be repealed, that it is wrong, and that judges are biased. This makes a chaotic and confusing backdrop for the study of law, and makes the notion of justice rather shaky.

Students and lawyers are human beings, and have the right to be vulnerable. They should be encouraged to consider how they are caring for themselves and how to ensure that their lives as law students reflect balance. We must also address the importance of well-being and self-care as part of their development as professionals. A movement for balance and humanizing legal education has begun to flourish, and law schools are offering a range of opportunities for law students to ensure their well-being and attention to self-care. (58) Indeed, best practices for promoting student and lawyer well-being have been articulated, (59) and law schools may institute institution-wide programs, both curricular and extra-curricular. Some schools offer elective courses to highlight the issues of mental health and stress and to identify factors to encourage well-being for lawyers and law students. (60) Other efforts are non-curricular. (61) For example, law schools have incorporated counseling, yoga classes, mindfulness workshops, wellness workshops, (62) as well as other initiatives designed to reduce stress and cultivate healthy responses and life habits.

Regularly discussing self-care strategies helps students to identify positive steps to mitigate the stresses of working in challenging environments. Before crises happen, teachers should affirmatively address the reality of vicarious trauma as a regular issue in lawyering. Teachers should be explicit and reinforce the goal of teaching students effective techniques to mitigate these common challenges in the work of a lawyer. Efforts to incorporate the topic of vicarious trauma in our larger agenda normalizes the experience of vicarious trauma for students, and better equips them to handle it when they experience it. Regularly talking about how we, as teachers and humans, are handling stress reduces the possibility that students will interpret their own stress as personal failure. Related to the competent practice of communication, we must be able to listen to our students discuss their challenges in ways that help them take positive steps in their self-care before situations become more overwhelming. It is essential to explore these issues when there is no crisis.

By paying attention to self-care, and emphasizing its importance to overall professional development, we acknowledge that working in disruptive social or political environments can be challenging and overwhelming. We must teach students to find ways to keep themselves healthy, motivated, and strong so that they can continue to do important work to protect and defend the constitution and ensure healthy functioning of the judicial system.


The experience of law school itself contributes in some way to students' loss of their inspiration, motivation, or connection with the reasons they chose the profession of law. (63) The motivation to "do" justice is something that can and should be cultivated and supported. Students who are beginning their legal careers should be encouraged to identify role models, leaders, and heroes who express and act in accordance with values that are consonant with their own. By identifying heroes and positive examples of lawyers who act courageously, students will learn how to act when they themselves are confronted with injustice. (64) This is not to encourage students to worship the ideal, but to seek concrete examples to draw upon for their own career. Sally Yates is a contemporary example of a lawyer who exercised courage and upheld justice. She was the acting attorney general whom President Trump fired in January 2017 after she refused to enforce his executive order calling for ban on travel to the U.S. from several Muslim-majority countries. (65) Yates stated,
Defending the constitutionality of the travel ban would require the
Department of Justice to argue that the executive order had nothing to
do with religion, that it was not intended to disfavor
Muslims...despite the numerous prior statements that had been made by
the president and his surrogates regarding his intent to effectuate a
Muslim travel ban. (66)

She reflected on her choice as "an unexpected moment when the law and conscience intersected." (67)

In addition to helping students identify leaders and heroes, law professors should focus on helping students understand and internalize the lawyer's obligation as a "public citizen." Under most jurisdictions' rules of professional conduct, the preamble provides "that lawyers are 'public citizen[s] having a special responsibility for the quality of justice." (68) This responsibility for the quality of justice can be explored in many ways throughout the curriculum. Scholar Paula Schaefer has identified concrete steps for making explicit connections between any course and the lawyer's work as a public citizen. (69) Her suggestions include: finding the public citizen lawyer in your textbook, using course materials to help students identify and discuss injustice, discussing needs for law reform, integrating social justice issues into course exercises, and prompting discussion in reflective journals. (70)

Scholar Jane Aiken goes farther by urging clinical professors to be "provocateurs for justice." (71) According to Aiken, a "provocateur for justice actively imbues her students with a lifelong learning about justice, prompts them to name injustice, to recognize the role they may play in the perpetuation of injustice and to work toward a legal solution to that injustice." (72) In focusing on social justice, teachers may also consider how to incorporate social justice teaching into their classrooms and across the curriculum in order to ensure that law school is educating competent, justice-seeking lawyers. (73)

These strategies are all ways in which law schools can address the challenges presented by the current context. In addition to these strategies, and the emphasis on the skills identified above, law teachers are collaborating on ways to capture the energy and spirit of what they call a "movement moment" in today's society, and to encourage law teachers to take advantage of this moment to educate future lawyers for justice. (74) Like us, they view "this moment as an important opportunity to revisit methods and sources of teaching in the legal academy, and to generate creative approaches that break us out of traditional modes of thinking." (75)

Finally, we reiterate that legal educators should explicitly own that we are teaching and learning in a changed context. The world looks different today than it did before 2017. Our work as teachers of future lawyers is critically important and we have a role to play in ensuring justice now and in the future, especially when the rule of law is threatened. It is no longer good enough for law teachers who do not teach in clinics or other areas of the curriculum traditionally associated with social justice to pretend that they only teach a particular substantive subject as something in isolation from the notion of justice. If we are all not teaching toward justice, we are missing an opportunity to ensure that justice prevails, today and tomorrow.

Beryl Blaustone (2)

Lisa Radtke Bliss (3)

(1) The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors based on their experience as clinical professors at their respective schools. Examples of recommendations and the projected effects on students within this article are only examples. They are based on limited source information, relying on general understanding of the climate of the new administration, and should be analyzed and applied with that understanding.

(2) Beryl Blaustone is a Professor of Law and a Founding Faculty Member of CUNY School of Law. She is Founding Director of the Mediation Clinic, Main Street Legal Services, Inc. at CUNY School of Law. She thanks both the 2017 IJCLE organizers and participants for providing both co-authors the opportunity to engage clinical colleagues from around the world on this topic. This experience at 2017 IJCLE was the catalyst for writing this paper. She also thanks Megan Harrison for her research assistance. Lastly, she thanks Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law for making this paper accessible to the broader Public Interest Law community.

(3) Lisa Radtke Bliss is Associate Dean of Experiential Education and Clinical Programs, Clinical Professor, and Co-Director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic, a medical legal partnership clinic at Georgia State University College of Law. She expresses thanks to the organizers and participants of the Conference of the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, where the ideas that form the basis of this article were first presented together with her co-author, and to Megan Harrison, who provided excellent research assistance.

(4) Phillip Rucker, Bannon: Trump administration is in an unending battle for 'deconstruction of the administrative state,' The Washington Post (Feb. 23, 2017),

(5) Eric Bradner, Conway: Trump White House offered 'alternative facts' on crowd size, CNN (Jan. 23, 2017),

(6) Executive Order 13769, "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," restricted entry into the United States by individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries. 82 C.F.R. 8977 (Jan. 27, 2017).

(7) BROOK GLADSTONE, THE TROUBLE WITH REALITY: A RUMINATION ON MORAL PANIC IN OUR TIME (2017). Gladstone clarifies that the attack on objective facts is accomplished by the notion that truth is personal and expertise is untrustworthy. GLADSTONE, supra. Every day we see the appointment of people to positions for which they are not qualified but who are often openly hostile to the administrative purpose of the appointment. Id. Staffing or the lack of staffing is intentionally used to dismantle regulation and enforcement actions. Id. This is true across the federal government except for the military, immigration ICE and law enforcement, which expanded. Id.

(8) George Lakoff (@GeorgeLakoff), TWITTER (Jan. 2, 2018, 9:32 PM), [hereinafter Lakoff January 2nd Tweet]. George Lakoff has authored several publications, including his groundbreaking book Moral Politics How Liberals and Conservatives Think,__now in its third edition. See GEORGE LAKOFF, MORAL POLITICS: HOW LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES THINK (3rd ed. 2016). His recent blog in the Huffington Post and his recent twitter feed charts four primary techniques that are influencing public perception and subconscious bias. Lakoff January 2nd Tweet, supra; see also George Lakoff, HUFFINGTON POST, (last visited Jan. 21, 2018). He enumerates a cogent framework for each of Trump's tactics in the election campaign and for his presidency. Lakoff January 2nd Tweet, supra; see also George Lakoff, supra. He developed the Conceptual Metaphor Thesis and the Thesis of the Embodied Mind. See Academic Biography, GEORGE LAKOFF, (last visited Jan. 21, 2018).

(9) I argue for teaching students to use an intentionality framework to build their capacity to learn from past work to improve future work. See Beryl Blaustone, Reflection on Supervision in Feedback Interactions: Reinforcement of Some Fundamental Themes, in TRANSFORMING THE EDUCATION OF LAWYERS: THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF CLINICAL PEDAGOGY 223 (Susan Bryant, Elliott S. Milstein, & Ann C. Shalleck eds., 2014) [hereinafter Blaustone, Reflections]; Beryl Blaustone, Improving Clinical Judgment in Lawyering with Multi-Disciplinary Knowledge of Brain Function and Human Behavior, 40 U. BALT. L. REV.607 (2011) [hereinafter Blaustone, Improving Clinical Judgment]; Beryl Blaustone & Carmen Huertas-Noble, Teaching Intentionality at the Intersection of Mediation and Community Economic Development: Training Effective Lawyers by Interweaving Metacognitive Inquiry, Problem-Solving Skills and Structured Reflection, 34 WASH. U. J.L & POL'Y 157 (2011); Beryl Blaustone, Teaching Law Students to Self-Critique and to Develop Critical Clinical Self-Awareness in Performance, 13 CLIN. L. REV. 143 (2006) [hereinafter Blaustone, Teaching Law Students].

(10) Jonathan Peters, Trump Twitter Spreadsheet Tracks 'A Perpetual Campaign Against the Press,' COLUM. JOURNALISM REV. (DEC. 21, 2017),

(11) See, e.g., Oliver Darcy & Brian Steler, ABC News President Excoriates Staff Over Brian Ross' Michael Flynn Error, CNN MONEY (Dec. 4, 2017, 6:40 PM),

(12) John Avion, Trump's War on the Truth--and How We Can Fight It, DAILY BEAST (Dec. 27, 2017, 4:21 PM),

(13) Glenn Kessler et al., President Trump has Made 1,950 False or Misleading Claims Over 347 Days, WASH. POST (Jan. 2, 2018), ("After a year in office, President Trump has made 2, 140 false or misleading claims and flip-flops. He now averages 5.9 per day.").

(14) Rod Dreher, Editor Admits Breitbart Publishes Fake News, AM. CONSERVATIVE (Dec. 23, 2017, 9:03 AM),

(15) See, e.g., Pete Vernon, The Media Today: Trump's 'Fake News' Attacks Have Global Impact, COLUM. JOURNALISM REV. (Dec. 5, 2017),

(16) Timothy Egan, We're With Stupid, N.Y. TIMES (Nov. 17, 2017),

(17) Id.

(18) Id;

(19) Id.

(20) Trump Attacks on Judiciary Raise Safety Concerns for Judges, CBS (Feb. 11, 2017, 9:59 AM), An example of this, as noted in the article, is Trump's critical tweets about U.S. District Judge James Robart in February 2017, after the judge ruled against Trump's travel ban,

(21) Brent Kendall, Trump Says Judge's Mexican Heritage Presents Conflict, Wall Street Journal (June 3, 2016),

(22) Abby Phillip et al., Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch says Trump's Attacks on Judiciary are 'Demoralizing,' WASH. POST (Feb. 9, 2017),

(23) Carlos Ballesteros, Trump is Nominating Unqualified Judges at an Unprecedented Rate, Newsweek (November 17, 2017),

(24) Some might cite the recent 55-minute meeting on January 9, 2018 with Trump on DACA legislation as transparent. See Peter Baker, Trump's Negotiation on Immigration, Unfolding on Camera, N.Y. TIMES (Jan. 9, 2018), However, that rare conversation was analyzed hy most observers as one of confusion on policy positions because of contradictory statements by Mr. Trump rather than transparent negotiation. See Tal Kopan, Trump Contradicts Self Repeatedly In Immigration Meeting, CNN (Jan. 10, 2018 9:10 AM),

(25) Will Wilkinson, The Tax Bill Shows the G.O.P.'s Contempt for Democracy, N.Y. TIMES (Dec 20, 2017),

(26) Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear, McCain Announces Opposition to Republican Health Bill, Likely Dooming It, N.Y. Times (Sept. 22, 2017),

(27) See Ali Rogin, Republicans defend tax bill process as transparent despite similar complaints during Obamacare process, ABC News (Dec. 6, 2017),; Republicans' Tax Bill Nears the Finish Line, N.Y. Times (Dec. 13, 2017),; Louise Radnofsky, Trump Signs Sweeping Tax Overhaul Into Law, Wall Street Journal (Dec. 22, 2017),

(28) J.E.F., America's federal government shuts down, The Economist (Jan. 19, 2018),

(29) Emily Schultheis, A New Right-Wing Movement Rises in Austria, ATLANTIC (Oct. 16, 2017),

(30) Leah Donnella, Brexit: What's Race Got To Do With It? NPR (June 25, 2016),

(31) Melissa Eddy, Alternative for Germany: Who Are They, and What Do They Want?, N.Y. Times (Sept. 25, 2017),

(32) Cole Stangler, Can France's Far Right Reinvent Itself?, The Atlantic (Jan, 14, 2018),; Italy's Northern League claims 'extraordinary victory' in elections, Financial Times (Mar. 5, 2018),

(33) See Judith Vonberg, How some European countries are tightening their refugee policies, CNN (Feb. 22, 2017),;

(34) See Poland Judiciary Reforms: EU takes disciplinary measures, BBC (Dec. 20, 2017),

(35) Matthew Taylor, 'While Europe:' 60,000 Nationalists March on Poland's Independence Day, GUARDIAN (Nov. 12, 2018, 11:36 EST),

(36) Jonah Engel Bromwich, Lawyers Mobilize at Nation's Airports After Trump's Order, N.Y. Times (Jan. 29, 2017),

(37) Id.

(38) Nicholas W. Allard, An Unexpected Trump Effect: Lawyer as Hero, THE HILL (Feb. 24, 2017, 2:20 PM)

(39) Jenna Greene, On the Bright Side, Lawyers Are Suddenly Popular, AM. LAW. (Jan. 31, 2017),

(40) Debra Cassens Weisss, New ABA President Hilarie Bass Touts Lawyers 'Role in Protecting Democracy, AM. B. ASSC. J. (Aug. 15, 2017, 10:39 AM),

(41) Corilyn Shropshire, After Trump's Election, More Students Consider Law School, Hoping to Make a Difference, CHI. TRIB. (NOV. 17, 2017, 1:10 PM),

(42) Matthew Cooper, The Anti-Trump Resistance: Lawyers Lead the Fight Against the White House, NEWSWEEK (Feb. 10, 2017, 1:06 PM),

(43) These examples were shared during group discussion of participants at a session, "Reconsidering the Roles and Responsibilities of the Law School as Advocate in the New Normal of Federal Policy" at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. See Notes: 2018 Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting, held by the Association of American Law Schools (Jan 5, 2018) (notes on file with co-author Lisa Bliss) [hereinafter Notes from the 2018 AALS Meeting].

(44) Id.

(45) Id.

(46) Id.

(47) Jamie R. Abrams, Experiential Learning and Assessment in the Era of Donald Trump, 75 DUQUESNE L. REV. 75, 86 (2017).

(48) For a useful exercise in parallel universe thinking, see Susan Bryant, The Five Habits: Building Cross-Cultural Competence in Lawyers, 8 CLINICAL L. REV. 33 (2001).


(50) See Blaustone, Reflections, supra note 2; Blaustone, Improving Clinical Judgment, supra note 2; Blaustone & Huertas-Noble, supra note 2; Blaustone, Teaching Law Students, supra note 2.


(52) Related to this understanding is perhaps cultivating cultural awareness, bias training, and other initiatives. An interesting program being rolled out by Antonin Scalia Law School is a Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion, that highlights these topics, as well as others. Diversity & Inclusion Certificate Program, GEORGE MASON UNI., (last visited January 21, 2018).

(53) One powerful example is a VICE News program that showed a Republican who is a professional focus group facilitator telling his Republican focus group that they were erupting into aggressive argument immediately without understanding the opposing points of view from fellow Republicans. This experienced, professional Republican focus group facilitator expressed his concern to the VICE journalist that the bonds of fellowship and community are broken in the operations of our government and in politics. Vice News Tonight: America First (HBO broadcast Jan. 19, 2018).

(54) Just days after Trump's inauguration, he implemented the first version of his travel ban. Two student attorney-mediators from the CUNY Mediation Clinic volunteered to facilitate group discussions on the travel ban for worried residents in the election district of a member of the NYC Council. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Trump Travel Ban: Timeline of a Legal Journey, FOX NEWS, (last visited Jan. 20, 2018).

(55) Bryant, et al., Transforming the Education of Lawyers: The Theory and Practice of Clinical Pedagogy, Carolina Academic Press 2014 at 51, 215, 401.

(56) For a summary of RCL, see Susan L. Brooks, Cultivating Students' Relational Skills, in BUILDING ON BEST PRACTICES: TRANSFORMING LEGAL EDUCATION IN A CHANGING WORLD 324-32 (Deborah Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas & Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, eds., 2015) [hereinafter BUILDING ON BEST PRACTICES].

(57) Maggie Fox, Could the Stress of a Trump Presidency Make Americans Sick?, NBC NEWS (June 7, 2017, 6:45 PM),

(58) See, e.g., Amy C. Bushaw, Humanizing the Delivery of Legal Education, in BUILDING ON BEST PRACTICES, supra note 40, at 73-84.

(59) Id. at 78.

(60) Id. at 79 (describing examples of elective courses).

(61) Id. (identifying non-curricular initiatives).

(62) See, e.g., Backbends in 85 Park Place, GA. ST. UNI. C. L. (Mar. 4, 2016),; Mindful Mondays: Learning to Breathe in Law School, GA. ST. UNI. C. L. (NOV. 2, 2015), (workshops offered at Georgia State University College of Law during the 2015-2016 academic year included yoga classes, mindfulness, and wellness).

(63) As one clinical professor has noted:
The repeated emphasis in law school on the subtleties of substantive
law and many layers of procedure, usually discussed in the context of
examples from business and traditional litigation, can grind down the
idealism with which students first arrived. In fact, research shows
that two-thirds of the students who enter law school with intentions of
seeking a government or public-interest job do not end up employed in
that work.

William P. Quigley, Letter to a Law Student Interested in Social Justice, 1 DEPAUL J. Soc. JUST. 7, 9(2007).

(64) For a historical list of lawyers who are exemplars of working for justice, see id. at 12; Bushaw, supra note 45, in BUILDING ON BEST PRACTICES, supra note 40, at 73-84.

(65) Evan Perez & Jeremy Diamond, Trump fires acting AG after she declines to defend travel ban, CNN (Jan. 31, 2017),

(66) John Laidler, When the Law and Conscience Intersected, HARV. L. TODAY (May 25, 2017),

(67) Id.

(68) Paula Schaefer, Jumpstart Outline: Ideas to Help You Make a Plan to Teach "Public Citizen" Lawyering in Any Law School Class, BEST PRACTICES FOR LEGAL EDUC. BLOG (Dec. 28, 2017),

(69) Id.

(70) Id.

(71) Jane H. Aiken, Provocateurs for Justice, 7 CLINICAL L. REV. 287, 288 (2001).

(72) Id.

(73) For a discussion about ways to incorporate social justice teaching across the curriculum, see, Susan Bryant Social Justice Across the Curriculum, in in BUILDING ON BEST PRACTICES, supra note 40, at 360-368.

(74) See GUERRILLA GUIDES TO LAW TEACHING, (last visited Jan. 20, 2018).

(75) Id.
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Author:Blaustone, Beryl; Bliss, Lisa Radtke
Publication:Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law
Date:Mar 22, 2018
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