Civil Rights, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic

Faculty: Professor Karen Tokarz 

To view the latest brochure article, 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 with HIV/AIDS or other disabilities, individuals with employment concerns, individuals displaced from or denied housing, 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), St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council, Places for People (Immigration Team), and the Immigration Law Firm. This clinic endorses the ethic of community lawyering, which assumes a community perspective in the consideration of the legal problems of individual clients, with a focus on empowering communities, promoting social and economic justice, and fostering  systemic change.

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, 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; engages in a minimum of three mediations or other dispute resolution experiences; and participates in community investigation, community education (“street law”), and/or legislative advocacy projects under the supervision of Professor Tokarz and field supervisors.

In addition to the supervised clinical practice component, the course includes a three-hour seminar.  The seminar explores the intersectionality of poverty, health, housing, employment, and immigration; 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).
T 2:38-5:30p FALL;   T/Th 3:38-5:00p SPRING

STUDENTS: Click here to view information about the Civil RIghts, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic. This handout provides general information that will be helpful for you to know before registering.


  • Partnered with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and HIV/AIDS communities on various community education projects. 
  • 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.   
  • Collaborated with the Saint Louis University Law Clinic, Equal Housing Opportunity Council, and others to challenge anti-immigration efforts in Missouri at the state and local levels through litigation, community education, and legislative advocacy.

Public Interest Law and Policy Speaker Series [view schedule]