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Lift as "The Fourth Moment" in Wisconsin Clinical Legal Education for Social Justice



Lift as "The Fourth Moment" in Wisconsin Clinical Legal Education for Social Justice



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Bibliographic Citation

Sarah Davis, Marsha Mansfield, Kelsey Mullins, Sachin Gupte & Mitch, Lift as "The Fourth Moment" in Wisconsin Clinical Legal Education for Social Justice, 2021 Wis. L. Rev. 417 (2021).


The University of Wisconsin (UW) Law School has a rich and vibrant clinical education history. Clinicians from the Law School’s Center for Public Representation (CPR) and the Remington Center were pioneers in clinical education. Their legacy lives on. In 2002, CPR became the Economic Justice Institute (EJI). Also vibrant is the twenty-year-old Center for Patient Partnerships (CPP), an interdisciplinary health advocacy clinic. Recently, Clinical Emerita Professor Louise Trubek, the founder/director of the CPR and chair of this Symposium’s Panel on Clinical Legal Education, wrote a comprehensive history of CPR’s innovations spanning three moments from 1974–2018.

Legal Interventions for Transforming Dane County (LIFT) represents the “fourth moment” for clinical legal education for social justice. LIFT is a collaboration between EJI, CPP, and community organizations to develop a technology application that streamlines legal services, facilitates self-help, and addresses lawyer workload. In concert, the initiative engages in evaluation efforts and system change to transform the civil legal justice system, so people who have been marginalized are able to address legal problems that often are insurmountable. It aspires to prevent civil legal injustice and keeps the education of future leaders core to its mission.

This Essay demonstrates how LIFT represents the start of this fourth moment by democratizing law through collaboration and entrepreneurial approaches. Building on Trubek’s scholarship that highlights and applies historical learnings about experimentation, national networks, and the unique role of clinical education to advance social justice, this Essay relates how LIFT builds upon CPR’s history.

The context surrounding this fourth moment is one of bounty and privation. Born of a national competition, LIFT was thrust into the new philanthropy approach and received an outsized for-the-times single philanthropic investment in civil legal justice reform. Additional catalysts for LIFT include the civil legal modernization movement, burgeoning national networks of social justice reformers, and calls for expanding legal service providers to include non-lawyer navigators. It is also influenced by the co-design movement and design lab clinical experiences, which prioritize clients’ perspectives. The challenges necessitating a new approach are intertwined crises: lack of access to the civil legal justice system and pervasive systemic racism. Legal clinics are particularly called to action in this fourth moment. Part I provides an overview of LIFT, including the innovative role of technology, student involvement, ongoing experimentation and evaluation, and LIFT’s design for engagement. Part II covers the context regarding the civil legal justice system, systemic racism, and the dissolving trust in public institutions. In Parts III and IV, we situate LIFT in contemporary innovations and argue that it represents the start of the fourth moment for clinical legal education at Wisconsin Law.


Social Justice, Clinical Education, Legal History, Civil Justice, Access to Justice, Legal Education, Legal Outreach, Client Services, Public Institutions, Expansion of Legal Services, Pro Se, Attorney-Client Relationships