Colleen Shanahan ’03 is recognized nationally for her innovative approach to clinical pedagogy as both a teacher and a scholar. Her research focuses on access to justice, empirical studies of civil courts, and the intersection of civil and criminal law.
As the founder of Columbia Law School’s Community Advocacy Lab, Shanahan guides students in representing community groups, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies, using a creative and expansive range of lawyering strategies to create a more just legal system.
Shanahan previously taught at Temple University Beasley School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center. Her previous work on fees in the juvenile justice system earned her clinic the 2017 Clinical Legal Education Association award for the best case or project in the United States.
In 2013, Shanahan was named a Bellow Scholar by the Association of American Law Schools, an honor that recognizes law school faculty who are involved in efforts to reduce poverty or increase access to justice.
Shanahan has both public and private sector experience. She clerked for Judge Michael Baylson on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Judge Jane R. Roth on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. She then worked as a litigator for Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C., and Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller in Philadelphia. She launched her academic career at Columbia in 2009 when she began teaching the Legal Practice Workshop.
There is a massive disconnect between what courts were designed to do—solve legal disputes through lawyer-driven, adversarial litigation—and what these courts are asked to do today—help people without lawyers navigate complex social,...
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