Two of Fordham Law’s clinicians were recently recognized for their contributions to clinical teaching work and accomplishments at the Law School. Bernice Grant, senior director of Fordham Law’s Entrepreneurial Program and the founding director of the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic (ELC), was named this year’s winner of the Association of American Law School’s (AALS) M. Shanara Gilbert Award. Professor Ian Weinstein received the Clinical Legal Education Association’s (CLEA) 2022 Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers Award.
Weinstein said he was “thrilled and humbled” after learning he would receive the CLEA award, which is given out annually to an individual who has “served as a voice for clinical teachers and who has contributed to the advancement of experiential, clinical legal education.”
“I know how many really talented, dedicated people there are out there and I’m glad the award gives us an opportunity to celebrate the important role clinics have come to play in our law schools,” he said.
From his beginnings as a law clinic student at New York University and Georgetown, Weinstein has been involved with clinical legal education since the very start of his legal career.
“The contact and relationships with clients [I had as a clinic student] deepened my appreciation for the legal rules I was learning,” said Weinstein. “I felt a strong desire to continue to do work that would combine the rigorous theoretical development that is characteristic of law school with the engagement with clients and the practice of law.”
Weinstein joined the Fordham faculty in 1991 as its fourth full-time clinical legal educator and helped grow the program over the next several decades.
“Under the transformative leadership of [former]Dean John Feerick, I got to participate in building the Law School’s clinical program. The Law School made a significant investment in hiring faculty and developing new offerings and other experiential offerings for our students,” said Weinstein, who worked alongside Associate Professor James Cohen and others to build the robust program. “It was a very, very exciting time and was such a wonderful opportunity for me.”
In 2006, Weinstein took on the role of director of clinical legal education and, in 2010, became the associate dean for clinical and experiential programs. He is also a co-convenor of the Stephen Ellmann Clinical Theory Workshop series at NYU.
An Emerging Innovator
Grant will accept the M. Shanara Gilbert Award award during the AALS’s virtual Conference on Clinical Legal Education tonight, May 11. The award honors an “emerging clinician” with 10 or fewer years of experience and whose work contributes to social justice issues.
Under Grant’s leadership, the ELC provides entrepreneurs and small business owners with legal help to get their business off the ground. The ELC’s clients come from two main groups—entrepreneurs whose businesses have an overall positive social impact and clients who come from low-income backgrounds and who otherwise would not be able to afford an attorney.
The clinic, whose theme is “Transactional Lawyering with Social Impact,” has contributed to social justice progress in a number of ways through its work. For example, it represented a formerly incarcerated entrepreneur who created a startup that hired over 100 other formerly incarcerated people, resulting in a zero percent recidivism rate.
Through community partnerships, the clinic also has had the opportunity to work with many low-income entrepreneurs. “It’s been great to be able to work with some of these entrepreneurs and help them establish a good foundation for their business, which will hopefully then lead to economic success for the business and for their families,” said Grant.
The founding of the ELC goes back to Grant’s long-standing passion for teaching, transactional practice, and economic justice. “Back when I was a law student at Harvard Law 20 years ago, I took a transactional legal clinic, and it was my favorite class in law school,” says Grant. “At the time, it never occurred to me that I might one day teach in a clinic like that.”
To expand the ELC’s impact and reach an even wider audience of entrepreneurs, Grant created a legal podcast, Startup LAWnchpad*, in 2018. The podcast is produced with the help of clinic students and covers a range of social, economic and racial justice topics, as well as legal issues that involve working with co-founders, raising capital from investors, and intellectual property issues.