Bliss Teaches Importance of Clinical Legal Education and Access to Justice in India
Lisa Radtke Bliss, clinical professor, associate dean of experiential education and co-director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic, traveled to India in November to teach the course, “Clinical Legal Education and Access to Justice,” at National Law University, Delhi (NLU).
“I taught NLU students about access to justice issues and clinical education methods, and, they taught me about their legal education and justice system,” Bliss said. “We worked together to understand where we had things in common and how different ideas about clinical education can be applied to specific issues that are being faced by populations in India who are most in need of help.”
The course explored various forms of clinical legal education and how it can support students’ development as professionals. Bliss also explained the impact clinical education can have on society’s future through improving access to justice and building a network of ethical, competent and professional lawyers.
During the course, Bliss outlined the models of clinical education most suitable to India’s legal and legal education systems. Students participated in activities to learn how law clinics can be responsive to the justice needs in their communities and designed different models of community education and service clinics to help address those needs.
“At the end of each day, students shared their takeaways and how they expected to apply those lessons in practice,” Bliss said. “One of the things they found most beneficial was the course’s experiential format approach to teaching interviewing skills and techniques. The expressed how important and necessary those skills will be in their roles as professionals.”
The course was funded by India’s government and organized through the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education. GIAN is a program that invites global academic and industry experts to share their expertise and experiences to help enhance academic resources in India and address issues facing Indian communities.
Bharti Yadav, assistant professor at NLU, Delhi, invited Bliss to teach the course because of her vast experience promoting access to justice and clinical legal education through Georgia State Law clinics and experiential programs. The course was open to students from NLU, Delhi and other universities.
“Students had a very enriching experience in Professor Bliss’ class. It broadened their understanding of access to justice and how clinical legal education can be practiced in law school,” Yadav said. “And, they benefitted from the valuable inputs and suggestions she gave.”
On the last day of the course, Bliss’ students taught her a few things as they discussed the differences and similarities between India and the United States over a traditional Indian lunch.
“We enjoyed talking about our cultures. We shared our favorite Netflix shows, and I surprised them by my love for spicy things,” she said. “They made a poster for me with messages of appreciation, and we took some silly photos to celebrate our time together. They also asked who my favorite student was, which made me laugh. Even though I had a long journey home, I smiled the whole way.”
Bliss’ visit coincided with the Indian holiday Diwali, known as the Hindu festival of lights, which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Traditions during the five-day celebration include exchanging sweets and gifts, lighting candles, called diyas, decorating homes with colorful lights and rangoli – patterns created with flower petals, colored rice or powder – and large fireworks displays.
“While there are many festivals in India, this one is particularly special and widely celebrated with many traditions,” Bliss said. “I was privileged to spend the holiday with Professor Yadav and participated in her family’s traditions. I learned so much about Indian culture. Being able to visit during Diwali and share in an Indian family’s celebration of this festival was an experience I will never forget.”
Bliss says that each experience she has teaching and presenting abroad informs her research and scholarship, which she finds important for fellow professors and Georgia State Law.
“International faculty exchange programs help Georgia State Law establish relationships that further the education, research and scholarship of our students and faculty,” Bliss said. “It is through these opportunities that we develop our global knowledge. For law professors, it is particularly important, because not only are we focusing on research, we are also increasing the exchange of knowledge about law, legal systems and justice.”