Colleen Shanahan

Colleen F. Shanahan

  • Clinical Professor of Law; Vice Dean for Experiential Education

LL.M., Georgetown Law, 2012
J.D., Columbia Law School, 2003
A.B., Princeton University, 1998

Areas of Specialty

Civil Access to Justice
State Courts and Procedure
Criminal Law
Juvenile Justice
Empirical Research
Clinical Pedagogy

Colleen Shanahan ’03 is recognized nationally for her innovative approach to clinical pedagogy as both a teacher and a scholar. Her research focuses on lawyerless courts, access to justice, and empirical studies of state civil courts. 

As the founder of Columbia Law School’s Community Advocacy Lab, Shanahan guides students in partnering with community organizations to advance racial and economic justice in the criminal and civil legal systems. 

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.


Publications available on SSRN

Select Publications

  • “The Field of State Civil Courts,” (with Anna E. Carpenter, Alyx Mark, and Jessica Steinberg), Columbia Law Review, 2022
  • “The Democratic (Il)legitimacy of Assembly-Line Litigation,” (with Anna E. Carpenter, Alyx Mark, and Jessica Steinberg), Harvard Law Review, 2022
  • “A Tale of Two Civil Procedures,” (with Pamela K. Bookman), Columbia Law Review, 2022
  • “Judges in Lawyerless Courts,” (with Anna E. Carpenter, Alyx Mark, and Jessica Steinberg), Georgetown Law Journal, 2021 
  • “Judges and the Deregulation of the Lawyer’s Monopoly,” (with Anna Carpenter, Alyx Mark, and Jessica K. Steinberg), Fordham Law Review, 2021.
  • COVID, Crisis, and Courts,” (with Alyx Mark, Jessica K. Steinberg and Anna E. Carpente), Texas Law Review, 2020 
  • “Simplified Courts Can’t Solve Inequality,” (with Anna E. Carpenter), Dædalus, 2019
  • “Studying the ‘New’ Civil Judges,” (with Anna E. Carpenter, Jessica K. Steinberg, and Alyx Mark), Wisconsin Law Review, 2018
  • “The Keys to the Kingdom: Judges and Pre-Hearing Procedure,” Wisconsin Law Review, 2018
  • “Measuring Law School Clinics,” (with Jeffrey Selbin, Anna Carpenter, and Alyx Mark), Tulane Law Review, 2018
  • “Trial and Error: Lawyers and Nonlawyer Advocates,” (with Anna Carpenter and Alyx Mark), Law & Social Inquiry, 2017
  • “Can a Little Representation Be a Dangerous Thing?” (with Anna Carpenter and Alyx Mark), Hastings Law Journal, 2016
  • “Lawyers, Power, and Strategic Expertise,” (with Anna Carpenter and Alyx Mark), Denver Law Review, 2016

Honors and Awards

Stephen Ellmann Memorial Clinical Scholarship Award, Association of American Law Schools


Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project, Clinical Legal Education Association


Bellow Scholar, American Association of Law Schools


On Why We Teach

“Lawyers must be society’s problem solvers, and law schools should prepare students for a variety of roles and shape them as leaders of the profession and society,” she says. “My goal is to help law students expand their idea of what lawyers do in pursuit of social justice to create change.”

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