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0000-0001-7192-660X, 0000-0002-0490-2525

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The entire world was shaken by the events of 2020—a year that the historians will pen with infamy. Along with a global health pandemic that tested both human frailties and social infrastructures, the world witnessed the devastation of George Floyd, an African American man, dying under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a White male police officer. The nation erupted. As 2020 ended, many organizations and institutions clamored both to process ethnic divides and injustices, and to gain tools and skills to create meaningful change and lasting impact. Legal education was one such institution. During the summer and fall of 2020, much was written and discussed about the ways in which law faculty might pedagogically teach “race,” racism, and related inequities, in the classroom.

This symposium was a response to those laudable efforts. It gathered scholars and practitioners who have been deeply engaged in this work to examine historical roots of the legal profession and discuss best practices for exploring ethnic, gender, and related inequities alongside our law students. It is well established that the legal profession and legal education neither reflect the community they serve nor swiftly respond to the social shifts within the broader society. As 2020 grossly revealed, ethnic partiality and division are aches we have yet to really confront and bear. For example, the casebook method format of legal education continues to model Christopher Langdell’s Gilded Age curriculum, a proscriptive framework steeped in objectivity and intentionally withdrawn from both history and human experiences.

The selected cases, even if they describe the ethnicity and gender of the plaintiff or defendant, for example, rarely invite critical thinking as to how that party’s identity impacted their interaction with the legal system. Further still, as faculty, we recognized the need to be better equipped to thoughtfully engage with these questions, whether or not our students raised them. It is time that both critical thought and brave engagement become the norm in legal education.