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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Patel on Cross-Cultural Competency Training for Law Students

Serena Patel, a former classmate of mine from UCLA Law, has recently published this essay in UCLA Law Review Discourse. The title is Cultural Competency Training: Preparing Law Students for Practice in Our Multicultural World. Here is the abstract:

This Article advocates for increased cross-cultural competency training for lawyers. With increasing diversity in society and among future lawyers, it is necessary for lawyers to be able to effectively communicate and create trusting relationships with clients from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. This Article recommends that a seminar be offered in law schools to develop and practice cross-cultural skills in line with The Five Habits: Building Cross-Cultural Competence in Lawyers, developed by Professors Susan Bryant and Jean Koh Peters. Implementation of the proposed seminar would help prepare law students to be culturally competent, successful lawyers.
Patel discusses techniques for developing cross-cultural competency in a clear and concise manner. She discusses how these techniques could be integrated into the law school environment, and advocates seminars that would teach cultural competency. Ideally, students would take these seminars before or alongside clinical coursework.

Patel's essay discusses an important skill that law schools should do more to emphasize, and that students should take more initiative to develop. Even if schools do not offer a cultural competency seminar, students should try to put themselves in situations where they interact in a cross-cultural environment. Volunteer clinics during the year, or nonprofit internships during summers can give students opportunities to have interact with clients of different cultures and backgrounds.

But these cross-cultural legal interactions would be more beneficial for students and clients if the law student has a foundation for approaching these situations. The seminar Patel proposes would be one way of building this foundation for students. The seminar would give direction to students' cultural competency development, and this benefit would be passed on to the clients with whom students would interact.

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