The University of Maine School of Law strives to be a diverse community inclusive of all races, ethnicities, national origins, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, disabilities, classes, and religions. Maine Law is committed to equity in legal education and the legal profession.
Below are a few ways the Law School is taking action to ensure a more inclusive and diverse community.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, (DEI) Task Force
In October 2020, Maine Law established a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, which evolved out of the Law School’s long-standing Diversity Committee. Members include Maine Law alumni, faculty, staff, and current students, including a representative from the student Multicultural Law Society.
Four dedicated Working Groups fall under the Task Force umbrella: the Curricular Initiatives Working Group, the Programming Working Group, the Student/Faculty Recruitment and Retention Working Group, and the Diversity Plan Working Group.
Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic
Established in 1970, the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic was one of the first law school clinical programs in the country. Student attorneys in the Clinic work on the frontlines on efforts to combat racial injustice in the law and our institutions. All legal services are provided by law students who are enrolled in one of four clinical courses: General Practice, Prisoner Assistance, Juvenile Justice, and Refugee and Human Rights. Students also have the opportunity to collaborate with local nonprofit organizations and community groups on a range of advocacy projects.
Refugee and Human Rights Clinic
Law students in the RHRC serve as the attorneys assisting low-income immigrants through a broad range of cases and projects.The course targets a critical gap in access to justice – providing direct legal representation and broader advocacy to immigrants and refugees seeking political asylum and similar protections under federal law, while training future attorneys on how to best serve the legal needs of immigrants.
The Law School is offering new courses focused on inequity in the law:
Social Justice Lawyering
Course Description: Contrary to historical depictions of a lone lawyer against a system, true social change is often accomplished through collaborative and communal efforts. Leadership, then, depends less on individual power, but on harnessing collective power. In light of the social injustices that abound, this course will explore the following questions: how we change the systems that allow a few to profit from the suffering of many? When, why, and how do people come together to effect change? And, what is a lawyer’s role in the process? This bridge class is, ultimately, a course in practical leadership development where knowledge of the law and legal strategies are combined with self-awareness, resilience, and community support to create integrated and committed legal practitioners capable of engaging persuasively on various topics of national and global interest. This course will examine select cases of successful efforts to advance human rights in order to (1) learn key principles and (2) apply the strategies to the prominent issues of today. Students will have the opportunity to engage members of the legal community on issues of systemic discrimination through community circle discussions offered through the Alpha Legal Foundation. This course will be taught by Krystal Williams ’17 of the Alpha Legal Foundation.
Racial Injustice in the Law
- Team taught by 10 Maine Law faculty members, students in this new course examine racial injustice throughout a wide range of fields: Property/Land Use, Torts/Insurance, Tax, Criminal Law, Business Law, Family Law, Environmental Law, Community Development, and Immigration Law.
- View Syllabus
- Team taught by 11 Maine Law faculty members and introduced by Dean Leigh Saufley, students in this new course develop proposals based on a range of topics: Controlled Substances, Criminal/Court Records Sealing and Expungement, Environmental Justice, Policing in Schools/Educational Disparities, and Right/Access to Counsel.
- View Syllabus
Maine Law faculty are engaged in a wide range of activities designed to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the law. Learn about the work of the Maine Law faculty.
PreLaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program
Since 2016, the Law School’s PreLaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program has made strides toward increasing diversity in law school and the legal profession, both in Maine and nationally. Designed for college students of color, immigrants, low-income students, students who are first in their families to attend college, and other underrepresented groups, the PLUS program offers undergraduates an immersive summer experience that gives them an opportunity to see themselves in the role of law student – and lawyer.
On June 19, 2020, the Law School hosted the first in a series of public conversations designed to be a platform for critical discussion about the racism that exists within laws and institutions. Maine Law’s Racial Injustice Forums are also intended to help identify specific policy and practice changes capable of transforming the Law School community and, ultimately, bringing an end to racial injustice.
The Law School has hosted three Racial Injustice Forums:
- Reimagining Policing and Public Safety
- Uplifting Black and Brown Youth Voices to Inspire Change
- Using Racial Impact Statements to Inform Change
Established in 2011, the Justice For Women Lecture (JFW) Series brings a distinguished speaker to Maine annually to present a public lecture and to contribute to a global conversation about justice for women and girls in the developing world.
The 28th annual Judge Frank M. Coffin Lecture on Law and Public Service was presented virtually by Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, on October 29, 2020 at 7:00 pm. He discussed “Challenging Immigration Policies: An Inside View From an ACLU Lawyer at the Center of the Fight.” A video recording of the event is available on Maine Law’s YouTube channel.
The Energy and Environmental Law Society, a student group at Maine Law, together with its faculty advisor Professor Jeff Thaler, hosted a virtual event with leading environmental and climate justice scholars on October 26, 2020. Experts from Hawaiʻi to New England gathered via Zoom to discuss the birth and history of the environmental justice movement, its implications for climate policy, the incorporation of environmental and climate justice principles in the practice of law and policy creation, and our professional and ethical obligation to identify and fight against environmental racism.
On April 21, 2021, Professor Seema Mohapatra presented “Passports of Privilege,” a talk on COVID-19 passports, as part of the Maine Law Faculty Scholarship series. Prof. Mohapatra is a visiting professor at Florida A&M University’s College of Law. She earned her B.A. from John Hopkins University, her M.P.H. in chronic disease epidemiology at Yale, and her J.D. at Northwestern. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has written about various issues including structural racism, mask mandates and racial discrimination, mask mandates and disability law, immunity passports, and health justice.