Antioch School of Law
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Antioch School of Law was a law school in Washington, D.C. which specialized in public advocacy. Established in 1972 by Edgar S. Cahn and Jean Camper Cahn, longtime champions of the legal rights of low-income and minority persons. The school now operates as the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC-DCSL).
The Cahns were also instrumental in establishing the federal Legal Services Corporation during the administration of President Lyndon Johnson. They served as the first deans of the school, and envisioned a law school focused on training highly skilled attorneys dedicated to public interest advocacy. The school was eventually fully accredited, and operated until 1988.
The school pioneered a comprehensive law clinic education model which has now been acknowledged by the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools as being an essential part of a complete legal education, and has been incorporated to some degree into the curriculum of virtually every law school in the United States.
The school, in fact, was envisioned as more than a law school - it was to be a public interest law firm with teacher-lawyers and student-advocates providing pro bono legal services to the poor and others who were unable to obtain representation. The intent was to create an intense combination of learning and practice. New students also spent their first two weeks at the school living with families in Washington's slums to get a feel for the poor people whom the students would soon be representing. This was part of the school's effort to inculcate a passion to eradicate injustice in society in its students.
From the beginning, Antioch's approach to admissions was far less test-score oriented than most other law schools. The Cahns said they wanted "good" students as well as "bright" ones. They recognized that not only do those who lack a conventional cultural or educational background have the potential to become good lawyers, they often, uniquely, have the motivation and life experiences to become great advocates for change and social justice. Antioch provided many students an opportunity to attend law school that they probably would not have been afforded otherwise.
In addition to its first professional degree program, which led to the juris doctor degree, permitting graduates to seek licensure as attorneys in all American jurisdictions, the school also offered an advanced degree program leading to the Masters of Laws (LL.M.) in trial advocacy, which was designed to produce highly skilled trial practitioners. The program's tacit goal was to produce attorneys whose abilities and reputation for aggressiveness were such that potential opposing counsel - generally viewed as corporate lackeys or defenders of the forces of reaction - would be cowed into beneficial compromise by the prospect of facing annihilation in the courtroom at the hands of Antioch alumni.
The law school was run under the auspices of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, long a pioneer in educational innovation, which, at various points in its history, operated as many as 32 separate entities in several states, as well as abroad. By the early 1980s, however, faced with growing financial challenges, and a diminished interest in its educational approach, Antioch was forced to scale back its operations, and, in 1986, made the difficult decision to close the law school. In the winter of 2009, the Chancellor of Antioch University set as a priority the exploration of reopening the Antioch School of Law.
In 1986, after the announcement of the law school's closing, Antioch Law students and alumni mounted a spirited grassroots campaign and ultimately succeeded in convincing the Council of the District of Columbia to establish the District of Columbia School of Law (DCSL). Though it had no formal connection to Antioch, the DCSL specifically adopted Antioch's mission and curriculum, including the clinical legal education components, employed many of its faculty, and afforded Antioch School of Law alumni full rights as alumni of the new law school. In 1996, the DCSL was absorbed by the University of the District of Columbia, a traditionally black public institution. Renamed in 1998, what had constituted the first professional degree curriculum of Antioch School of Law now operates as the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, a fully accredited institution with several hundred students, and with one of the nation's most highly regarded clinical legal education programs.
Initially, the LL.M. in trial advocacy program was adopted as it existed by George Washington University Law School, and operated under that school's aegis. In the ensuing years, however, the program was gradually diminished, and now exists only in truncated form as a three-credit, six-day offering known as the College of Trial Advocacy, and in various other courses in advanced advocacy skills and dispute resolution, at George Washington.