Law Schools: Learning by Doing

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The liveliest teaching device in U.S. law schools today is a wholly extracurricular activity: the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council, a 34-campus movement with an impressive record of devotion to constitutional law in action.

The council was founded in 1963 after a handful of Northern law students gave up summer jobs to go south as volunteer clerks for civil rights lawyers.

"When I saw those women and children being knocked down by fire hoses," remembers Philip Hirschkop (George town Law '64), "I knew that I would be in this thing for a long time." By fall, ten summer veterans had banded to gether. Howard Slater (Yale Law '66) recalls "our common revulsion" at the campus attitude back home. "Law stu dents seemed so preoccupied with success as measured in dollars, with the study of law as an academic game rather than as a tool for social justice."

Tremendous Experience. Slater & Co. organized the nonpolitical council not only to lure more students into civil rights, but also to prod more lawyers into all kinds of public service. They got almost instant response. U.S. Senators, Wall Street lawyers and Ivy League law professors opened their wallets. A foundation put up $2,000; the American Civil Liberties Union contributed free office space in Manhattan. At Columbia, more than 300 students from 15 law schools attended the council's first big meeting. In Washington, Students Hirschkop (now a Virginia lawyer handling a key miscegenation case) and Richard Granat (Columbia '65) got the council declared tax-exempt in a record-breaking ten days — and helped attract another $75,000 in foundation money in the process.

Last summer the council put 40 students to work aiding indigent clients in Northern cities, from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Another 60 clerked for volunteer Northern lawyers in the South, notably in Mississippi. Columbia Law Senior Robert Watkins (Harvard '59) is a Boston Negro who had never dreamed of facing "Southern realities," before he went south. Now, after "a tremendous experience" in Mississippi, Watkins is ready for more. "I had a skill — law. I was delighted that it could be used to help my people."

Ole Miss Delegation. Director Steven Antler (Columbia Law '64), who runs the council's Manhattan office, is presiding over no one-shot summer project. This winter, from Harvard to Stanford, council members churned out research on subjects ranging from rent laws to de facto school segregation. University of Colorado law students aim to start council-sponsored research for the pur pose of encouraging more lawyers to defend Spanish Americans. In Washington, D.C., students from 20 law schools attended a council-run conference on "law and indigency," urged a sharp expansion in lawyers' services for the poor.

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