by Hari M. Osofsky, Dean, Penn State Law and School of International Affairs

The Contributions of Clinical Legal Education on Immigration

This wonderful collection of essays highlights the important contributions of clinical legal education generally and of immigration clinics in particular. I am so inspired by the work of Professor Wadhia and our Penn State Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic students.

Clinical legal education first began in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, but expanded significantly in the 1970s with the support of the Ford Foundation. Initiatives by the Ford Foundation, Soros Foundation, American Bar Association, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, World Bank, and International Development Bank have supported the expansion of this form of education around the world.[i] These courses serve two goals simultaneously: (1) providing students with experiential learning that helps prepare them for practice and (2) serving critical social need.

These essays reflect the ways in which the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has embodied these goals. This clinic has given our students the opportunity to learn by working with clients on important immigration issues. Their stories indicate how that client-based work allowed them to learn in ways that go far beyond the traditional classroom. Their work in this clinic helped prepare them to be better lawyers and many of them have continued social justice work in a variety of ways.

At least as importantly, the Center for Immigrant’s Rights Clinic has helped meet critical social needs. It has assisted immigrants who needed representation and worked to influence immigration policy. Its work has been highly collaborative, giving our students an opportunity to work together with leading organizations assisting immigrants. And the clinic’s work has served our State College and Penn State community, improving an understanding of our immigration laws.

What is particularly striking about these essays is how they convey these students’ work in the clinic in the context of their broader life narratives. Our clinics’ students come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences — a number of them are themselves immigrants. The essays convey how they came to be interested in immigration issues, what they learned from working in the clinic, and how their career evolved from there. I am so impressed with the many ways in which they are helping society.

Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrant’s Rights Clinic has served our students and society for a decade. As the new dean this fall, I have been proud to have this clinic serving critical needs at a moment in which much legal uncertainty exists. From interpreting President Trump’s executive orders to providing information to Penn State’s dreamers, the clinic has been serving a critical role in our university and local community in helping people understand the rapidly changing landscape.

Professor Wadhia’s leadership has been incredibly impressive — her tireless commitment to making a difference inspires our students and she does a wonderful job of preparing them to lead. The essays describe the role that she has played in our students lives through this clinic, but I have also had a chance to witness it myself this fall. Under her careful supervision, our students have led forums on changing immigration laws with remarkable poise and preparation and created numerous fact sheets and other documents.

I look forward to seeing what this clinic accomplishes in its second decade. I know it will continue to change the lives of our students and the people that it serves. We Are!

[i] See Richard J. Johnson, Training for Justice: The Global Reach of Clinical Legal Education, 22 Penn St. Int’l L. Rev. 421 (2004); Elizabeth A. Keyes, David C. Koelsch & Alejandro Posadas, Clinical Legal Education: A (Brief) Comparison of the Evolving Structures and Pedagogy in Mexico, Canada and the United States, 3 U. Detroit Mercy L. Rev. Online (2015).


Citation: Hari M. Osofsky, Closing:The Contributions of Clinical Legal Education on Immigration, in Back Into the Future of Immigration: Personal Stories by the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic (Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia ed., 2018).

Hari M. Osofsky, Dean, Penn State Law and School of International Affairs

Hari M. Osofsky is dean of Penn State Law and the Penn State School of International Affairs and Distinguished Professor of Law, professor of international affairs, and professor of geography. Prior to joining Penn State, Dean Osofsky was the Robins Kaplan Professor of Law; the faculty director of the Energy Transition Lab; and the director of the Joint Degree Program in Law, Science, and Technology at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Photograph of Hari M. Osofsky, Dean, Penn State Law and School of International Affairs