Prof. Neha Lall Named a Bellow Scholar in Clinical Legal Education

Prof. Neha Lall, director of externships at the University of Baltimore School of Law, has been selected as a 2023-24 Bellow Scholar for her research project, Paid Externships as a Tool to Advance Student Equity and Autonomy. The new class of five Bellow Scholars made their first presentations at the AALS Clinical Conference in San Francisco in April.

The American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Section on Clinical Legal Education’s Committee on Lawyering in the Public Interest (aka the Bellow Scholars Program) selects a new cohort of law professors every two years to recognize and support innovative empirical research proposals designed to promote economic and social justice.  

The Bellow Scholars Program recognizes and supports the research projects that reflect the ideals of Prof. Gary Bellow, a pioneering founder of modern clinical legal education. Lall’s project was unanimously selected by the committee, according to AALS, because it is an excellent example of this type of scholarship. 

Lall’s research studies UBalt Law’s new paid externship program, which launched in the fall of 2022. Even though the ABA lifted the prohibition on paid externships in 2016, many in the legal academy remain concerned about whether the educational value of field placement courses can be maintained when students are being paid. UBalt Law lifted the ban on paid externships after considerable debate, deciding that the policy was limiting opportunities and disparately affecting students who needed paid employment. 

“Instead of speculating about what will happen if we allow paid externships, it’s time to gather data to see what happens when we allow pay on a wide scale,” says Lall. “UBalt Law has a diverse student body and large externship program, with over 60 percent of its students receiving compensation. We are an ideal institution to carry out this study.” 

Lall analyzes, from a student perspective, how students are factoring pay into their externship placement decision-making process, which students are benefiting from pay, and how those benefits have affected the quality of their overall educational experience. 

This data will advance national conversations about paid externships in legal education, Lall notes. “Traditional pathways into the legal profession do not work for many of today’s students, who carry a significant debt load and simply cannot afford to work for free,” she says. “If we want to have a diverse profession, we need to make it financially feasible for law students to get the experience they need.”  

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