legal education; clinical education; clinics; technology; AI, artificial intelligence


In this Essay, we briefly describe key aspects of [generative artificial intelligence] that are particularly relevant to, and raise particular risks for, its potential use by lawyers and law students. We then identify three foundational goals of clinical legal education that provide useful frameworks for evaluating technological tools like GenAI: (1) practice readiness, (2) justice readiness, and (3) client-centered lawyering. First is “practice readiness,” which is about ensuring that students have the baseline abilities, knowledge, and skills to practice law upon graduation. Second is “justice readiness,” a concept proposed by Professor Jane Aiken, which is about teaching law students to critically assess the social and political implications of legal work and the legal system, as well as making space for students to confront systemic injustices and the role of lawyers in perpetuating them. Third is “client centered lawyering,” which at its root is about client empowerment and autonomy, teaching students to recognize the power imbalances present in the attorney-client relationship and the importance of ensuring client agency in decision-making. Although these are by no means the only goals of clinical education, they provide key perspectives and criteria for GenAI assessment.

Finally, we examine whether GenAI is pedagogically compatible with each of these three goals. We conclude that although GenAI does present some de minimis learning opportunities for practice readiness, it is largely incompatible with justice readiness and client-centered lawyering, especially when considering the serious concerns that the development, deployment, and use of GenAI raise for those clinical programs with public interest missions.