Clinical Law Program celebrates 50th anniversary



This year, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law commemorates the 50th anniversary of the law school’s renowned Clinical Law Program, one of the first programs of its kind in the nation.  

The yearlong celebration will include the investiture of the program’s co-director Leigh Goodmark as the Marjorie Cook Professor of Law in January, and a March symposium focused on the role of law school clinics in helping reduce prison populations. An event next fall will explore the future of clinics in legal education. 

The Clinical Law Program has flourished since the early 1970s, as has the law school’s national reputation for the breadth, diversity, and impact of its clinical courses, and for the excellence of the clinical faculty. A primary reason students cite for attending Maryland Carey Law is the opportunity to begin making a difference before they even graduate. Alumni also laud their clinic experiences for providing the skills and tools to hit the ground running when they began practicing after graduation. 

“My first time in court is one I will never forget,” says Isabella Datillo '24, a student in the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic. “Without the clinical program I would not have gotten such robust, real-life legal training that also allowed me to help a member of our community.”  

Honoring the Past 

The Clinical Law Program at Maryland Carey Law has grown from one clinic in 1973 to the 18 offered today. Its roots reach back to the Civil Rights and legal services movements, which fueled scholars’ and students’ desire to address Baltimore’s severe lack of access to justice for disadvantaged and underrepresented communities. Establishing clinics enabled the law school to tackle that need while building experiential learning, driven by sound theory and doctrine, into law students’ training.  

Peter Smith, notable for having argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1969 landmark case Shapiro v. Thompson, which ended residency requirements for welfare, directed the first clinic, giving students the chance to represent children in Baltimore’s juvenile court. 

From that propitious start, the program took off, expanding in the next two decades with the leadership of faculty, including E. Clinton Bamberger, Brenda Bratton Blom, Karen Czapanskiy, Susan Leviton, Michael Millemann, Joan O’Sullivan, Deborah Weimer, and Roger Wolf. They and others launched clinics in areas such as disability rights, health, elder law, bankruptcy, consumer protection, environmental law, and mediation, as well as one of the first AIDS legal clinics in the country and a groundbreaking interdisciplinary law and social work clinic. 

“From the beginning, our law school has been a recognized leader in clinical education and ahead of the curves in developing a comprehensive clinical program, requiring our students to take at least one experiential course, and integrating theory and practice,” reflects Millemann, a former program director and a leader in creating the program. "We have had the full support of six deans and all faculties since 1973, and great clinic leadership. We have only gotten better over the decades.” 

Continued Growth 

A turning point came in 1988 when then-U.S. Representative Ben Cardin ’67 and others led the charge for the Maryland General Assembly to allocate funds to expand the Clinical Law Program in order to enable the law school to guarantee a clinical experience for all full-time day students. Today, what is known as the “Cardin Requirement” makes clinic participation a graduation prerequisite for most students. 

"I am proud to have played a part in establishing experiential learning as a requirement in my alma mater's curriculum," says Cardin, now a U.S. Senator. "The Clinical Law Program at Maryland Carey Law is a leading force in providing access to justice for the people of Maryland."  

That influx of support ignited further growth, and, in the next two-plus decades, many faculty joined the ranks, including Barbara Bezdek, Richard Boldt, Patricia Campbell, Douglas Colbert, Jerry Deise, Deborah Eisenberg, Sara Gold, Leigh Goodmark, Toby Treem Guerin, Kathi Hoke, Sherrilyn Ifill, Tom Perez, Michael Pinard, Rena Steinzor, Maureen Sweeney, Ellen Weber, Beverly Winstead, and Maryland Carey Law’s current dean Renée Hutchins, who went on to co-direct the program in the 2010s with Pinard. These scholars launched or reinvigorated clinics in areas including immigration, public health, tax, gender violence, juvenile justice, post-conviction and sentencing, and reentry. 

Through the years, the Clinical Law Program has also benefited from the expertise of practicing attorneys. Adjuncts bring their deep knowledge and expertise to clinics and have allowed the law school to expand the breadth of clinical offerings.  

“The Clinical Law Program is the beating heart of our law school,” says Hutchins. “The work of our clinics represents our deep commitment to providing access to justice in our city and to the integration of theory and practice woven into the curriculum.” 

By the Clinical Law Program’s 30th anniversary, the faculty had grown to 25. Today, more than 35 faculty and staff supervise 150 students providing around 75,000 hours of free legal services to the community each year. During the COVID pandemic shutdown, that work continued largely on Zoom, email, and through phone communication. 

“Our students dove into work created by the pandemic,” says Goodmark. “We filed lawsuits to try to get our incarcerated clients who were particularly vulnerable to the virus released and to address pandemic-related employment discrimination. We developed guidance for low-income people on what court closures would mean for them. We helped low-income taxpayers file for stimulus funding.” 

Looking Forward 

Recently, Maryland Carey Law has enhanced the Clinical Law Program with dynamic new faculty, including Seema Kakade, Lila Meadows, Aadhithi Padmanabhan, and Maneka Sinha. Their clinics are focused on environmental law, justice for victims of crime, appellate immigration, and criminal defense. And while the law school continues to prioritize new and reimagined clinics, a strong trend in the past five years has been clinic collaborations like the Eviction Prevention Project, which draws from specialties in multiple clinics to meet a specific need. 

 “These recent innovations recognize that Injustice and oppression–individual and collective—cut across systems and institutions,” says longtime Clinical Law Program co-director Professor Michael Pinard. "Reflecting on our Clinical Law Program in its 50th year, we know that we must coordinate our efforts and expertise to not only respond to our clients’ myriad legal and non-legal issues, but also to work with communities to uproot and dismantle the systems and institutions that wreak havoc on individuals, families, and communities in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. Deepening our collaborations is one mandate—of many—moving forward.”   


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