Robert Dinerstein

Professor of Law
Associate Dean for Experiential Education

Office: Room 460
Phone: 202-274-4141
E-mail: vCard


Robert Dinerstein is professor of law, director of the clinical program (1988-96 and 2008-present), associate dean for experiential education (2012-present) and director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic (2005-present) at AU's Washington College of Law, where he has taught since 1983. He was the law school's associate dean for academic affairs from 1997-2004. He specializes in the fields of clinical education and disability law, especially mental disabilities law (including issues of consent/choice, capacity and guardianship), the Americans with Disabilities Act, Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, legal representation of clients with mental disabilities, the interaction between disability and the criminal justice system, and disability and international human rights.

Dinerstein has made numerous presentations on clinical legal education and disability law, among other topics, and has published a number of books, articles, chapters and other writing on these subjects. Among his recent publications in the disability law area, he is co-editor and co-author, with Stanley Herr and Joan O’Sullivan, of A GUIDE TO CONSENT (AAMR, 1999); author of “Guardianship and Its Alternatives,” in ADULTS WITH DOWN SYNDROME (Siegfried M. Pueschel, ed., 2006); and “Implementing Legal Capacity Under Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: The Difficult Road from Guardianship to Supported Decision-Making” (Human Rights Brief, 2012). In the area of legal education and lawyering, he has written extensively on client-centered counseling and is co-author, with Ellmann, Gunning, Kruse and Shalleck, of LAWYERS AND CLIENTS: CRITICAL ISSUES IN INTERVIEWING AND COUNSELING (Thomson West 2009). He has also written and presented on the US Department of Justice’s record of enforcement of the rights of persons with disabilities under several administrations.

Dinerstein was appointed by President Clinton in 1994 to serve on the President's Committee on Mental Retardation (now called the President’s Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities), on which he served until 2001. Internationally, he has consulted for the World Health Organization (Ghana and Malawi) and the Open Society Foundations (Ghana) regarding the revision of mental health laws and was a signatory to the Montreal Declaration on Intellectual Disabilities, adopted in Montreal, Canada in October 2004. He also has consulted with the Open Society Foundations regarding disability rights clinics in Latin America and Africa Domestically, he has consulted for the Ford Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation and the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Education on issues related to legal services, disability law and poverty law. With Hadar Harris, he is co-principal investigator for the Disability and Human Rights Fellows program, which receives support from the Open Society Foundations.

Prior to joining AU, Dinerstein worked as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, where he handled federal court cases on the rights of people in institutions for people with psychosocial disabilities, people with intellectual disabilities and juveniles. In addition to the Disability Rights Law Clinic, which he founded (and which handles special education, admission/commitment of people with intellectual disabilities, guardianship, Department of Mental Health grievances, ADA, and other cases), he teaches a seminar on law and disability and has taught interviewing and counseling, legal ethics, the supervised externship seminar, and the criminal justice clinic (which he directed from 1989-1995).

Dinerstein is actively involved in organizations related to legal education nationally. He was a member (elected) of the Council of the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (2006-2011), and previously was on the section’s Standards Review Committee. He has been a member of over 15 ABA-AALS joint site inspection teams, chairing three teams. Within the Association of American Law Schools, he was a member of the membership review committee and has, among other things, chaired the sections on clinical legal education, law and community, disability law and law and mental disability law, as well as the committees on clinical legal education, sections and the annual meeting, and the planning committee for the 2006 clinical teachers’ conference. He has been a member of a number of other planning committees, including for the AALS New Teachers’ Conference.

Dinerstein currently sits on the boards of directors of the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Inc. (founding board member & president), Equal Rights Center (treasurer), Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Inc. (founding board member), and Advocates for Justice and Education and in the past has served on the boards of the District of Columbia Bar Board of Governors (elected; 2002-05), Society of American Law Teachers (elected), Mental Disability Rights International (founding board member; now called Disability Rights International), Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and Maryland Disability Law Center, among other organizations.

Among his many awards, Dinerstein has received (with Shalleck) the Egon Guttman Casebook Award (2011-12) for LAWYERS AND CLIENTS; the William Pincus Award for his contributions to clinical legal education (2010); University Awards for Outstanding Teaching in a Full-Time Appointment (2009) and Faculty-Administrator Award for Outstanding Service to the University Community (2002); and the Pro Bono Service Award from the International Human Rights Law Group (1988; now called Global Rights).

He has an A.B. degree from Cornell University and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School.



Areas of Specialization

  • Clinical Legal Education
  • Disability Law
  • Transactional Law and Skills

Degrees & Universities

  • J.D., Yale Law School 1977
  • A.B., Cornell University 1974

  • Selected Publications

    • Ellmann, Stephen et al., Lawyers and Clients: Critical Issues in Interviewing and Counseling (West Group 2009).
    • + More Publications...

    • Robert Dinerstein, “Every Picture Tells a Story, Don’t It?”: The Complex Role of Narratives in Disability Law Cases, 15 Narrative: The Journal of the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature 40 (Jan. 2007).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Guardianship and Its Alternatives for Adults with Down Syndrome (Ch. 11), in Adults With Down Syndrome (Siegfried Pueschel, ed., Paul H. Brookes, Co., Inc. 2006).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Laurie Powers & Steve Holmes, Self-Advocacy, Self-Determination, and Social Freedom and Opportunity, in National Goals and Research for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (K. Charles Lakin & Ann Turnbul, eds., The ARC of the U.S. & Am. Assn. on Mental Retardation 2005).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Am I Blue? Judicial Nominations Will be a Continuing Battleground in the Second Bush Term, 2004, Issue 4 SALT Equalizer (Nov. 2004).
    • Robert Dinerstein, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Progeny of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 31 Hum. Rights 10 (Summer 2004).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Consent and Competency in the Lives of People with Developmental Disabilities, National Academy for Equal Justice for People with Developmental Disabilities (June 2004).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Stephan Ellmann, Isabelle Gunning, & Ann Shalleck, Connection, Capacity and Morality in Lawyer-Client Relationships: Dialogues and Commentary, 10 Clin. L. Rev. 755 (Spring 2004). SSRN Link
    • Robert Dinerstein, Judicial Nominations Battles Continue, 2003, Issue 4 SALT Equalizer (Nov. 2003).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Stephan Ellmann, Isabelle Gunning, & Ann Shalleck, Legal Interviewing and Counseling: An Introduction, 10 Clin. L. Rev. 1102, 1102-1129 (Fall 2003). SSRN Link
    • Robert Dinerstein, Guardianship and Surrogate Decisionmaking for People with Developmental Disabilities in the District of Columbia, in On the QT: Newsletter for The Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Vol. 2 ( Fall/Winter 2003).
    • Robert Dinerstein, AJudicial Nominations: The Hits Just Keep on Coming, 2003, Issue 3 SALT Equalizer (Aug. 2003).
    • Robert Dinerstein, AJudicial Nominations Continue to Be a Major Battleground, 2003, Issue 2 SALT Equalizer (Apr. 2003).
    • Robert Dinerstein with E. Hazen, The Rights of Bar Examination Applicants with Disabilities in the United States, Vol. 2, 6 Hum. Rights. Br. (1999).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Developments in the Clinical Program, 1988-1995, 15 Advoc. 10 (Spring 1995).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Clinical Education in a Different Voice: A Reply to Robert Rader, 1 Clin. L. Rev. 711 (1995).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Innovations in Teaching Law, 14 Advoc. 3 (Spring 1994).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Revising the Consent Handbook: From Consent to Choice, 7:1 AAMR News & Notes 1 (Mar./Apr. 1994).
    • Robert Dinerstein & Marjorie Anne McDiarmid, Comments in Reply, 43 J. Leg. Educ. 596 (1993).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Book review: The Criminal Justice System and Mental Retardation: Defendants and Victims, 97 Am. J. Mental Retardation 715 (1993).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Supreme Court to Hear Rights Cases, 5:2 AAMR News and Notes 1 (Apr. 1992).
    • Robert Dinerstein, A Meditation on the Theoretics of Practice, 43 Hastings L.J. 971 (1992) (reprinted in (excerpts) Hurder, Bloch, Brooks & Kay, Eds., Clinical Anthology: Readings for Live-Client Clinics (Anderson Publg. Co., 1997)).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Clinical Scholarship and the Justice Mission, 40 Clev. St. L. Rev. 469 (1992).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Clinical Texts and Contexts: Review Essay, 39 UCLA L. Rev. 697 (1992).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Clinical Scholarship and the Justice Mission, 40 Clev. St. L. Rev. 469 (1992) (reprinted in Symposium: The Justice Mission of American Law Schools, 40 Clev. St. L. Rev. 277 (1992)).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Client Centered Counseling: Rallying Cry or Shibboleth?, Am. Inquiry 14 (1990).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Client Centered Counseling: Reappraisal and Refinement, 32 Ariz. L. Rev. 501 (1990) (reprinted in (excerpts) Hurder, Bloch, Brooks & Kay, Clinical Anthology: Readings for Live-Client Clinics (Anderson Publg. Co. 1997); excerpted in Martha Mahoney, John Calmore & Stephanie Wildman, Social Justice: Professionals, Communties, and Law (West Publg. 2003); and Susan Carle, ed., Lawyers' Ethics and the Pursuit of Social Justice: A Critical Reader (N.Y.U. Press 2005)).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Developments in Externships and Simulation Courses, 21 Syllabus 3 (Summer 1990).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Chile: Perpetuation of the Dictatorship or Return to Democracy?, 4:3 The L. Group Dkt. 1 (Fall 1987).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Casebooks and Courtrooms: A New Era of Cooperation, 4 Advoc. 3 (Spring 1986).
    • Robert Dinerstein, The Absence of Justice, 63 Neb. L. Rev. 680 (1984).
  • + Selected Works in Progress

    • Robert Dinerstein, S. Ellmann, I. Gunning, K. Kruse & A. Shalleck, Interviewing and Counseling (Thomson/West forthcoming 2006).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Guardianship and Its Alternatives for Adults with Down Syndrome, in Adults With Down Syndrome (Siegfried Pueschel, ed., Paul H. Brookes, Co., Inc. forthcoming 2006).
  • + Selected Presentations

    • Robert Dinerstein, Chair, ABA-AALS Site Evaluation Team (Southern Illinois University School of Law, Carbondale, Ill., Nov. 17-19, 2008).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Taught in Clinical Workshop, Establishing and Enhancing Clinical Legal Education in China: Faculty Workshop Presented by Washington College of Law of American University (American University Washington College of Law China Rule of Law Program (US AID sub-grantee), Hangzhou, P.R.C., July 21-31, 2008).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Presentation, Jacobus tenBroek and Disability Rights (,” National Federation of the Blind Annual Meeting, Dallas, Tex., July 2, 2008).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Presentation, Capacity and Consent for Health Care for People with Developmental Disabilities (Panel on Health Care Decision-Making, Living Healthy, Living Well Conference, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, et al., Wash., D.C., June 19, 2008).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Presentation, Disability Rights (Introduction to Health Care and Life Sciences Fundamentals, Health Law & Policy Institute, American University Washington College of Law & Government Program, Wash., D.C., June 16, 2008).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Presentation, Lawyers and the Rule—and Role—of Law: The Example of China (European-American Consortium on Legal Education (EACLE), Warsaw, Pol., June 13, 2008).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Panel Moderator, Clinical and Externship Programs (Conference on Assisting Law Students with Disabilities in the 21st Century: Brass Tacks, American University Washington College of Law, Wash., D.C., Mar. 8, 2007) (reprinted in 15 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Policy & L. 817 (2007)).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Co-facilitator, Working Group (2005 AALS Workshop on Clinical Legal Education, Chi., Ill., Apr. 30-May 3, 2005).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Panelist, Teaching Mental Disability Law Across the Curriculum (AALS Annual Meeting, Jan. 8, 2005).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Presentation, Introducing Disability Law into a First-Year Torts Class (AALS Annual Meeting, Jan. 8, 2005).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Presentation, The Significance of Changes in ABA Standard 302 (AALS Annual Meeting, Jan. 6, 2005).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Panelist, Interviewing and Counseling in Context: New Approaches and New Ideas (AALS Annual Meeting, Jan. 6, 2005) (reprinted in 8 Thomas M. Cooley J. Prac. & Clin. L. 145 (2005)).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Presentation, Ethical and Lawyering Issues Involved in Interviewing and Counseling Elderly Clients, Panel on “Issues of Ethics and Professionalism in Representing the Elder Client (Symposium on Elder Law, University of Akron School of Law, Akron, Ohio, Sept. 30, 2004).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Presentation, A Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Workshop and A Foreign Lawyers, LL.M. Programs and the Bar Exam, before the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (National Network for Law School Officers, Wash., D.C., Apr. 7-8, 2003).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Participant, Colloquium: Critical Moments in the Conceptualization of Lawyering: Reflections upon the Quarter Century Since the Publication of Bellow and Moulton, (The Lawyering Process, Feb. 21, 2003).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Participant, Developing Our Team, Association of American Law Schools, Section on Student Services, (WCL Panel on Civility, Legal Rhetoric Program, New Orleans, La., Jan. 2, 2002).
    • Robert Dinerstein, Symposium: International Human Rights Law and the Institutional Treatment of Persons with Mental Disabilities: The Case of Hungary,, 21 N. Y. L. Sch. J. Intl. & Comp. L. 397 (2002).
  • + Selected Honors & Awards

    • 20+ Years of Service Award ("In appreciation of Prof. Dinerstein's commitment and dedication to making justice a reality for those struggling with homelessness,” Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Inc. Nov. 6, 2008).
  • + Selected Media Appearances

  • + Selected Teaching Materials

    • Ellmann, Stephen et al., Teacher’s Manual to Lawyers and Clients: Critical Issues in Interviewing and Counseling (West Group 2009).