Professor Susan Bennett Selected as Recipient of AALS William Pincus Award, the Highest Honor in Clinical Legal Education

Dec. 15, 2020

Professor Susan Bennett, far left, with students and faculty from the Community and Economic Development Law Clinic.

American University Washington College of Law congratulates Professor Susan Bennett, who has been selected as a co-recipient of the 2020 William Pincus Award from the Association of American Law Schools Section on Clinical Legal Education.  The Pincus Award, the most prestigious honor in the field of clinical legal education, recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions as reflected in scholarship, service, program design and implementation, and other activities. 

“We are thrilled that Susan is being honored for her transformative scholarship on public interest lawyering, her pioneering efforts in the transactional clinical space, her impactful advocacy, and her remarkable record of service at WCL and in the legal community at large,” said Professor Jayesh Rathod, associate dean of experiential education.

Bennett has made substantial and enduring contributions to clinical legal education and the advancement of justice. She founded and directs the American University Washington College of Law Community and Economic Development Law Clinic, through which students provide transactional representation to non–profit organizations, small businesses, and affordable housing cooperatives in under-served neighborhoods in the D.C. metro area.

Bennett will be the fourth Washington College of Law clinician to receive the Pincus Award when she is formally presented with the honor at the Clinical Legal Education Section’s award ceremony, to be held virtually, Jan. 5, 2021.  She joins previous awardees Professor Emeritus Elliott Milstein (1992), Acting Dean Robert Dinerstein (2010), and Professor Ann Shalleck (2015). 

Serving the community

Among Bennett’s clients over the years are community organizations, entrepreneurs and small businesses, and worker and housing cooperatives. In representing limited equity housing cooperatives, Bennett has worked to preserve this important source of permanently affordable housing for low-income DC residents. Both her teaching and work have had a particular focus on the legacy of residential housing segregation in and around DC. In addition to representing limited equity housing cooperatives and affordable housing developments and advocacy organizations, Bennett works with individual homeowners to remove racially restrictive housing covenants from their deeds. Bennett is keenly aware of the history of the communities in which she practices and the connection between her work and racial justice permeates her client representation, her teaching, and her scholarship.

Over the course of her career, Bennett has produced a substantial and highly influential a body of work relating to public interest lawyering. These writings appear in a variety of prominent journals, including the Clinical Law Review, Fordham Urban Law Journal, Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Wisconsin Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. In these pieces, Bennett has addressed topics including the role of poverty lawyers, attorney-client relations in the context of community lawyering, the practice of “long-haul lawyering,” public housing communities, and welfare reform.

Beyond her service to the clinical community as an editor (since 2016) of the Clinical Law Review, Professor Bennett has held many leadership positions within the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Poverty Law, including serving as Chair and Executive Committee member. She also bridged the worlds of academia and practice in her leadership of the Legal Educators Division of the ABA Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law.

Supporting Public Interest at AUWCL

At American University Washington College of Law, Bennett is an unwavering supporter of public interest law students, and has designed and supported programs to support them, like helping found the Public Interest Alumni Advisory Board, mentoring Public Interest/Service Scholars (PIPS), and serving as a faculty advisor for the law school’s Office of Public Interest, which is responsible for oversight of the schools Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program. Most recently, she laid the groundwork for the creation of a new Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) law student bono project in collaboration with DC’s Housing Counseling Services.

Bennett is being recognized alongside Professor Nancy Maurer, who founded Albany Law School’s Clinical Program in 1983 when she created their Disability Law Clinic.