Civil Rights, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic

Faculty: Professor Karen Tokarz 

  • To view the latest brochure article, click here 
  • To view the news release concerning, Civil Rights & Mediation Clinic Supporting Mortgage Loan Foreclosure Mediation in St. Louis City, click here.
Professor K. Tokarz, C. J. Smith, Judge Frawley

The Civil Rights, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic introduces law students to civil rights practice and dispute resolution from a community-based perspective.  The course seeks to engage law students with the urban world in which they live and to connect their professional lives with the lives of their clients and client communities.  Clinic students work in teams on behalf of their clients and client communities – individuals denied or discriminated against in housing; individuals with consumer, health, and employment rights issues; seniors; and immigrants and refugees - in collaboration with community legal services providers and non-profit organizations that protect and advance the rights of individuals in these client groups.  These community legal services providers typically include Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (Health & Welfare, and Immigration Units); Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation (Bankruptcy Unit); St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council (EHOC); and Migrant & Refugee Community Action (MICA). In addition, the clinic collaborates with local non-profit organizations that assist these client groups, including Better Business Bureau (BBB), US Arbitration and Mediation Services (USAM), and Beyond Housing.

Clinic students engage in a diverse range of multidisciplinary, collaborative lawyering strategies, including interviewing and counseling, case analysis and planning, problem solving, fact investigation, negotiation and mediation, document drafting, written and oral advocacy, legislative advocacy, community education (Astreet law@), community organizing, policy development, communication and media, administrative practice, transactional practice, pre-trial practice, and litigation.  This clinic provides opportunities for clinic students to 1) engage in client representation and dispute resolution, and develop client advocacy and dispute resolution skills; 2) connect directly with clients and client communities; 3) learn more about public health, housing, consumer, elderlaw, employment, and immigration legal theory and practice;  4) grapple with professional and ethical issues that arise in practice; and 5) develop the fundamental ability to learn from experience.  In the beginning of the course, students receive 8-10 hours of training in interviewing, counseling, and dispute resolution (negotiation and mediation).  During the semester, each clinic student interviews, counsels, and represents a minimum of six clients, and engages in a minimum of ten mediations or other dispute resolution experiences. Each student also engages in collective representation of the affected communities through community investigation, community education (“street law”), impact litigation, and/or legislative advocacy projects under the supervision of Professor Tokarz.

In addition to the supervised clinical practice component, the course includes a three-hour seminar.  The seminar explores the intersectionality of poverty, housing, consumer, aging, public health, and immigration issues; the role of law and lawyers in addressing these issues; and concepts of community lawyering.  Past clinic students report gains in a variety of key areas, including writing clearly and effectively, solving complex real world problems, improving client advocacy and dispute resolution skills, contributing to the welfare of the community, understanding people of different racial and class backgrounds, working collaboratively with professionals from other disciplines, learning effectively on one's own, developing a professional identity, and clarifying career goals. This course is beneficial for joint degree students and students who contemplate starting their own firms.

This course is graded on a modified pass/fail basis: HP94, P, LP78, F70; however, if a student registered for more than 6 units earns a high pass, only 6 of the units will carry the grade of HP94 - the other two units will be graded with "CR" ("Credit").

A course from the ethics curriculum is a pre- or co-requisite for the course.

6-8 credits (4-5 credits with instructor’s permission).



  • Provided training and supervision for 4-8 law interns per semester at the BBB to mediate consumer disputes.
  • Worked with St. Louis City, St. Louis County, members of the Missouri General Assembly, and community housing organizations to draft and promote legislation requiring mortgage foreclosure mediation, and with USAM to establish a foreclosure mediation process.
  • Collaborated with the Missouri Consumers Council to draft and promote legislation protecting debtors from fraudulent threats of prosecution.
  • Developed and taught a 8 week course on Law, Leadership, Negotiation & Peace-Building to juniors at NW High School.

Public Interest Law and Policy Speaker Series [view schedule]