Albany Law School’s clinical, lawyering, and field placement programs are stronger thanks to Professor Nancy Maurer.
Almost 40 years after helping start these programs, Maurer is reflecting on those decades as she heads into retirement after the Spring 2023 semester.
Maurer’s influence is infused into the Albany Law School experience.
Clinical education at Albany Law School was in its early stages when Maurer joined the faculty and she saw a growing need to provide legal help to people with disabilities. Prior to Albany Law, she practiced with Legal Services in Charleston, S.C. and later served as staff attorney for New York State Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for People with Disabilities.
In 1983, she founded and directed the Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Clinic where law students, working under faculty supervision, represented clients in discrimination, public entitlements, education or other disability rights matters.
In the years that followed, more clinics began and grew into a present-day lifeline for many in the Capital Region, The Justice Center at Albany Law School.
She later co-led the creation of the landmark Introduction to Lawyering program, which is designed to expose first year law students to essential research, writing, and lawyering skills in context, and teach them to think like professionals.
“It started as a pilot program over 30 years ago, and was soon adopted school-wide. Students were put into “law firms” representing a hypothetical client in a year-long dispute. They participated in research and writing along with other lawyering tasks such as client interviewing, drafting pleadings, and negotiating in the context of their case.
We wanted students to put themselves in a lawyer's role in order to connect legal research and writing to the skills and values they would need for practice. Students were prompted to think about their professional responsibilities to their clients and to the legal system, and to develop a sense of professionalism from the start of their legal education. Albany Law was really at the forefront in creating such opportunities for first year students. Introduction to Lawyering helped students make the transition to clinics and field placements where they would engage in actual practice.”
She also helped grow the Field Placement Program to give students an opportunity to build on classroom skills and apply them in practice as they learned from actual experience under the supervision of experienced lawyers or judges in at external legal settings.
“I'm proud our field placement program has always been an integral part of The Justice Center’s clinical and experiential curriculum and that it is directed by full-time faculty. The program started small and has grown so that we can now offer a field placement experience to every student. Further, it is recognized that “students can be taught to learn from experience and reflection, and that this is a life-long skill essential to growth and professional development.”
Watching the clinical and field placement offerings grow, Maurer said, has been one of the most satisfying parts of her career.
“It has been rewarding to see some of our grads who we've nurtured through their experience assume leadership positions in government or public interest organizations, and in other settings. Some of our clinic and field placement alums have gone on to become some of our best and most skilled field supervisors. It is especially rewarding to see it all come around,” she said.
Beyond all of this, Maurer is a member and former co-chair of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Disability Rights and former member and chair of the Board of Directors of Disability Rights New York, Inc. She also serves on the Boards of Bethlehem Youth Court and the Legal Equity Advocacy Firm, Inc. She is an editor of the 3rd edition of LEARNING FROM PRACTICE: A TEXT FOR EXPERIENTIAL LEGAL EDUCATION. She is also co-editor of the New York State Bar Association three book series DISABILITY LAW AND PRACTICE. Maurer received the AALS Clinic Section William Pincus Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Legal Education in January 2021 and the 2015 Albany Law Faculty Excellence in Service Award.
Throughout her tenure, helping students get a practical legal education so they leave law school ready to practice has been the foundation of her teaching.
As for retirement? Maurer is looking forward to having more time to travel with her husband and especially to visit their three children in their respective cities, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and Jerusalem.