a fear, suspicion, or suppression of difference.
3. Developing a deep knowledge of other cultures.
4. Developing skills to work effectively across differences in cultures, histories, practices, perspectives, and
There are many ways that law schools can and do seek
to encourage students’ development along these four steps.
Ten important ones include:
1. Building a broadly diverse
community of students,
faculty, staff, and alumni
that interacts deeply and
regularly enough to begin
to see and appreciate cultural differences.
2.Offering courses and
programs that provide
educational opportunities on skills of working
across difference, including courses in international and comparative
law, race and law, law and inequality, and skills courses
or workshops that address how to have “difficult conversations.”
3. Providing opportunities for law students to spend time
in a different country or culture, or to work directly with
clients from different cultures such as study-abroad programs, immersion courses, externships, and clinics.
4. Having a robust set of student organizations that support students’ identities and interests and that create
collaborative educational programs with one another.
5. Calling out cultural competency as a learning outcome
in the school’s mission and setting assessment and accountability structures to support that mission.
6. Providing regular educational opportunities for faculty and staff to develop their own cultural competency
skills and setting clear expectations for their expertise
in personnel systems (e.g., promotion and tenure standards, annual performance reviews).
7. Promoting opportunities for pro bono legal service
and community service for students, faculty, and staff
to enhance opportunities to know and serve people of
different social and economic status.
8. Creating close working relationships and collaborative
programs with minority bar organizations and other
legal, business, and civic organizations that also value
and promote cultural competency.
9. Facilitating interdisciplinary opportunities for students to pursue with other units on campus that also
seek to educate students for cultural competency.
10.Having awards, other recognition programs, and art
and library exhibits within our buildings that clearly
celebrate cultural competency and diversity.
While each of our law schools has much work yet to do in
these areas, we have also made significant strides in recent
years. Here are just a few examples from many initiatives un-
derway. UW Law requires a first-year course in international
and comparative law that includes issues of cultural compe-
tency so that students learn early in their educations how to
work across borders and differences. At Seattle University, the
Social Justice Leadership Committee sponsored a recent work-
shop at which faculty worked through actual scenarios provid-
ed by students and shared strategies for engaging in difficult
conversations in the classroom about race, gender, migration,
disability, and sexuality. At
Gonzaga, faculty and students
hosted a discussion forum
on the events in Ferguson,
Missouri, and their repercus-
sions, while another group,
Diversi Tea, meets regularly to
In an effort to work collab-
oratively on increasing cul-
tural competency among our
students, our schools recently
joined together in a grant pro-
posal that would extend a Se-
attle University program, the
Racial Justice Leadership Institute (RJLI), to students at all
three schools. If funded, this year-long leadership development
collaboration would help develop a lens for understanding rac-
ism, increase student skills around identifying and intervening
in racist dynamics in law practice, and build shared analysis
about the structural and interpersonal operations of racism.
As technology and globalization continue to rapidly make
our world one with fewer and more porous borders, our students need and deserve to be fully prepared for that complex
and connected world. We will serve them and our world well
by ensuring that cultural competency is among the skills and
values legal education prioritizes and endeavors to instill in
our graduates. We anticipate a day in the near future when
“cultural competence” will no longer be singled out, but rather will have become so central to the practice of law that it will
be part of the definition of being a competent lawyer.
Annette Clark is the dean of Seattle University School
of Law. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Jane Korn is the dean of Gonzaga University School of
Law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kellye Testy is the dean of University of Washington
School of Law. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Clark Korn Testy