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Teaching the Power of Empathy in Domestic and Transnational Experiential Public Defender Courses
ExpressO (2013)
  • cary a bricker, University of the Pacific
Abstract: This article begins with the premise that empathy benefits lawyers, irrespective of age, sex, years of experience or nationality. Building on a body of literature that analyzes why empathic relationships are so integral to client satisfaction, and drawing lessons from medical literature addressing the analogous role of empathy in physician-patient relationships, the article argues that real connection with clients also results in lawyer satisfaction, improving quality of professional life and client representation, reducing burn-out and fostering a personal commitment to advancing social justice. The article also argues that lawyers share a common goal to acquire tools necessary to engage empathically with their clients, even when this learning process pushes them in uncomfortable directions. Focusing on two public defender “classrooms,” the article offers experiential teaching methods to cultivate empathy in lawyers in a way that makes it “stick” over years of practice. These classrooms include the Federal Defender clinic at Pacific McGeorge Law School and the public defender workshop in Santiago, Chile. In both settings the goal was to use these experiential techniques to move our participants toward client-centered representation. In both countries, when the participants surrendered to the process of “learning” empathy, they felt more personally and professionally committed to achieving positive outcomes for their clients.
  • empathy,
  • transnational,
  • experiential,
  • clinical
Publication Date
Citation Information
cary a bricker. "Teaching the Power of Empathy in Domestic and Transnational Experiential Public Defender Courses" ExpressO (2013)
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