Professor To Direct Juvenile Defense Clinic

Crystal Shin Outlines Goals To Represent Court-Involved Youth
Crystal Shin

Crystal Shin joined the Law School in 2017 as the first director of the Program in Law and Public Service. Photo by Jesús Pino

June 3, 2020

Professor Crystal Shin ’10 will step down as director of the Program in Law and Public Service to direct a new University of Virginia School of Law clinic.

The clinic, which starts this spring and has yet to be formally named, will focus on holistic juvenile defense.

“I’m excited to return to clinical teaching and my poverty lawyering roots,” Shin said. “I had always hoped to return to the practice of law at some point, so when I had the opportunity to design a new in-house clinic, I gladly accepted.”

The Law School currently offers 19 clinics. Separately from the Child Advocacy Clinic, Shin’s clinic will represent clients on school- or community-referred juvenile delinquency matters in juvenile and domestic relations courts.

“The clinic will represent indigent youth on delinquency matters as well as collateral special education and school discipline matters,” she said. “By having one clinic provide holistic representation in courts and in schools, we can provide critical representation to clients and increase the likelihood of their future success because a favorable disposition in one system may lead to a better outcome in the other system.”

Shin noted that students with disabilities in Virginia are suspended at three times the rate of their nondisabled peers and are disproportionately more likely to be referred to law enforcement by schools. Over 40% of youth incarcerated in the state juvenile correctional center receive special education services, she said, compared to about 10-12% of youth in Virginia’s general student population.

“Taken together, students with disabilities are a particularly vulnerable group entangled in the juvenile justice system,” Shin said. “Knowing the host of negative outcomes associated with suspension, expulsion and referrals to court, this clinic will meet an important community need.”

As a companion course to the clinic, Shin will also again teach her Juvenile Justice Seminar, though with additional simulations and exercises. The seminar explores the history of the juvenile courts, troubling issues within the current juvenile justice system, recent Supreme Court cases regarding juveniles, and advocacy and policy reform at the state and national level.

Dean Risa Goluboff said she was pleased that Shin will be able to expand her teaching efforts as part of a larger plan to enhance the school’s in-house clinics and public service support more generally, and that a new director of the Program in Law and Public Service would be named shortly.

She praised Shin’s efforts to grow the program since she joined the Law School in 2017. Since then, Shin implemented an enhanced curriculum centered on social justice and building practical skills, redesigned the first-year Law & Public Service course to include more practical elements, helped launch the Shaping Justice conference, created a peer mentoring component to supplement the faculty mentoring program, increased alumni engagement and giving, and started monthly “Lunch & Learn” meetings with inspiring public interest practitioners around the country.

“Over the past three years, Crystal has built a robust community around the program and nurtured our network of alumni,” Goluboff said. “We’re so pleased she can take on this new role that will enhance curricular offerings for students interested in public service, as well as serve a critical need in our community.”

Shin said she is proud of the “growing public service community we have built.”

“Providing a space for committed public interest students to take classes together, to fellowship together, and to plan public service events together makes the less-traveled public interest career path less lonely and more achievable.” 

Shin joined the Law School in 2017 as the first director of the Program in Law and Public Service. Before that, she served as an assistant professor and director of the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic at William & Mary Law School.

“In directing my special education clinic, I learned the importance of community lawyering and the importance of partnering with clients, amplifying their voices and helping them advocate for themselves,” she said. “Special education cases can be quite lengthy, so our clinic had longtime clients, and it was just a joy to see clients grow throughout our representation as they learned the law, how to self-advocate, and even negotiate with the opposing side.”

As an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center from 2010 to 2014, Shin served as an adjunct lecturer at UVA Law and supervised students who represented clients through the Child Advocacy Clinic. She first joined LAJC as UVA Law’s 2010 Powell Fellow, representing indigent children and families on special education, school discipline, juvenile justice and immigration cases while working with the JustChildren Program.

Shin was named a 2020 Influential Women in Law honoree by Virginia Lawyers Weekly, and was the 2017 co-recipient of the Virginia State Bar’s Young Lawyer of the Year Award. She also serves on the boards of Piedmont CASA and Barrett Early Learning Center in Charlottesville.

While a law student, Shin served on the board of the Public Interest Law Association for two years and was a journal editor. Upon graduation she received the school’s Margaret G. Hyde Award. 

Before she attended law school, Shin taught fourth-graders for three years in a low-income, rural school district in North Carolina, through Teach For America. Shin credited her students for being her inspiration to attend law school.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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