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Community Economic Development (CED) clinicians regularly address issues surrounding economic, racial, and social justice, as those are the core principles motivating their work to promote vibrant, diverse, and sustainable communities. When COVID-19 arrived, and heightened attention to police brutality and racial injustice ensued, CED clinicians focused not only on how to begin to address these issues in their clinics, but on how to discuss these issues more deeply and effectively with their students. This essay highlights the ways in which the pandemic school year influenced significant rethinking of one CED clinic’s operations: first, the pandemic sharpened the clinic’s mission to provide transactional legal services to nonprofit and community-based organizations, social enterprises, and neighborhood-based small businesses in Detroit and in other disinvested urban areas in the region; and second, it prompted the clinic to attempt to foster a culture of care within the virtual classroom. As an epicenter of pandemic, racial, and political turmoil over eighteen months (and counting), Detroit offered a unique setting to engage students in thinking critically about the role of lawyers in assisting communities in their efforts toward economic, racial, and social justice during the pandemic year and beyond.


Originally published as Krishna, Gowri J., Kelly Pfeifer, and Dana Thompson. "Caring for the Souls of Our Students: The Evolution of a Community Economic Development Clinic During Turbulent Times." Clinical Law Review 28, no. 243 (2021): 248-252.