Updated 4:52 p.m.
A panel of Washington-area law school deans today discussed the ways their universities engage students and the legal community on the issue of civil rights.
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law hosted a legal symposium as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.
Okianer Dark, dean of Howard University School of Law was on the panel with Alfreda Robinson, associate dean for trial advocacy at George Washington University Law School and Shelly Broderick, dean of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. UDC law professor John Brittain, who moderated the panel, began the discussion with a look at how schools instill social responsibility.
"For Howard, civil rights and human rights are our agenda," Dark said. "The mission is about social justice."
Robinson said that George Washington University Law School recognizes students who donate the most pro bono hours at graduation. "We believe that from the very start, students have a responsibility to be social engineers," Robinson said.
Brittain, during one exchange, asked Broderick if she thought the employment challenges facing recent law school graduates made it harder for students to get involved with social justice legal organizations.
"We all know that there is a huge unmet need, not just among the most vulnerable, but the most impoverished, but there is a huge need among the middle class and the lower-middle class who need legal representation," Broderick said. "So many of our students are figuring that out and learning how to practice law through legal clinics and starting small and solo practices where they offer low bono services."
The deans said that they use real-world examples like the Trayvon Martin case, Hurricane Katrina and the Occupy Wall Street movement to as a means to talk about civil rights.