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Law School Clinician G.S. Hans Receives Prestigious Shanara Gilbert Award
portrait of Gautam Hans
G.S. Hans, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Associate Director of the First Amendment Clinic

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Clinical Legal Education has awarded Gautam Hans, associate clinical professor of law and founding director of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Clinic, the 2024 M. Shanara Gilbert Emerging Clinician Award. One of the most prestigious national honors in American clinical education, the award recognizes an emerging clinician for commitment to teaching, achieving social justice, and providing legal services and access to justice to those most in need.

“I am thrilled to receive the Gilbert award from the AALS Clinical Section,” Hans said. “Since my first experiences as a clinic student fifteen years ago in my second year of law school, I dreamt of one day becoming a clinical professor. Working with our dedicated and brilliant Cornell students to represent clients who cannot afford representation remains a daily privilege, and I hope that our work honors the legacy of the inspiring Shanara Gilbert.”

Hans joined the Cornell Law faculty in 2022 as the associate director of the First Amendment Clinic. An expert on First Amendment law and technology policy, Hans works on issues relating to clinical legal education with a particular focus on social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion. He also analyzes, through research and advocacy, the legal and policy issues implicating technology and civil liberties.

Dean Jens David Ohlin noted, “I’m delighted to see this recognition of Professor Hans’ dedication to his students, clinic clients, and the national clinical legal education community.”

Since joining Cornell Law in 2022, Hans has worked on clinic projects that promote individual and organizational free speech rights, with a particular aim of introducing students to intersections between the First Amendment and other areas of law. Clinic students have represented a foreign national denied entry to the United States based on political views; advised a leading library nonprofit on promoting access to books in school and public libraries; and counseled reproductive rights advocates on the legality of interstate advertising for abortion funds following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Andrew Gelfand ’23 wrote on behalf of twenty former students of Hans in support of his nomination for the award. The letter stated, “Professor Hans frames the First Amendment as a point of intersection for various other legal disciplines and concerns—intellectual property and technology; gender and race; civil rights and democratic participation. He provides his students space to think through their clients’ needs and the best methods to realize them. He does not expect his students to arrive at some predetermined answer—instead, he engages with students as coequals or, where appropriate, lets his students lead.”

Clinical Program Director Beth Lyon added, “We are proud of Professor Hans and believe he is well deserving of this honor. Shanara Gilbert was a clinician, a public defender, and a champion of civil legal services, and she represented the highest ideals in our profession.”

Gilbert was a founder and codirector of the City University Law School’s Defender Clinic, a member of the board of directors of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and past chairwoman of the conference’s Section on Criminal Justice. After receiving a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1980, she worked as a staff lawyer with the District of Columbia Public Defender Service and the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services.

Gilbert worked for legal aid agencies well before becoming a lawyer, and was on the advisory board of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. In 1993, as a consultant to the Ford Foundation, she wrote a report on the status of university legal aid clinics in South Africa.

“From my first meeting with Professor Hans it was clear that he was committed to justice,” says First Amendment Clinic client Anthony J. Broadwater, who spent sixteen years in prison before being exonerated in 2021. After being approached by a filmmaker, Broadwater signed a contract under duress that gave broad rights to the filmmaker, who, in turn, tried to sell Broadwater’s story to others. “[Hans] immediately recognized my goals and implemented a plan to … advance that goal. He took an interest in helping me understand the legal implication of the document I signed and my options for giving me the freedom to tell the story of my life on my own terms . . . I finally have a voice.”

In addition to his clinical teaching, Hans spearheaded a new interclinic course, Critical Theory in Clinical Practice, the first of its kind at the Law School. This course gives clinical students the opportunity to critically engage with the law and their cases, and more thoughtfully and effectively pursue justice upon graduation.

Hans served on the presidential steering committee for Cornell’s inaugural university theme in 2023–2024. That theme, “The Indispensable Condition: Freedom of Expression,” was explored through a series of lectures, workshops, and other activities that brought the entire community together to explore the significance, history, and challenges of free expression and academic freedom.

A leader in the national clinical community, Hans currently serves as copresident of the Clinical Legal Education Association and the Center for Study of Applied Legal Education and on the advisory board of the Initiative for a Representative First Amendment. He frequently speaks on issues relating to clinical legal education, free speech and technology, and constitutional law in the media and at conferences and symposia.

Hans will receive the award at the annual AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education in St. Louis on May 3.


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