Legal education tends to focus on teaching students federal law from hefty casebooks, inculcating the ability to "think like lawyers." In a sea of Socratic lectures and hypotheticals, students often take refuge in clinics as an island of practical skills-building, client centeredness, and individual fulfillment. Yet even clinics sometimes fail to highlight for students how the place where they practice, with its particular political context and history, shapes their clients' lives and legal problems. This Article describes the law school clinic as a site of grounded pedagogy: a teaching method that centers the connection between local history and the present to help students understand their individual clients' situations and the wider struggle for justice.
Grounded pedagogy locates learning in the clinic's built environment, links past and present, and is supported with data. Among other benefits, grounded pedagogy guides students to understand the social context of their clients' communities, reduces ideological barriers to analyses of structural injustice, and deconstructs substantive silos in legal education. This Article demonstrates the utility of grounded pedagogy through the example of its implementation in a Juvenile Defense Clinic in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Envisioning clinics as a site of grounded pedagogy situates wider struggles in local context and models for non-clinical legal education a method to localize law school curricula.
Madalyn Wasilczuk, The Clinic as a Site of Grounded Pedagogy, 29 Clin. L. Rev. 405 (2023).