Cahn Legacy Weekend honors co-founders of David A. Clarke School of Law

Cahn Legacy Weekend honors co-founders of David A. Clarke School of Law

Cahn Legacy Weekend honors co-founders of David A. Clarke School of Law


Edgar and Jean Cahn

With over 50 years of operation, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) celebrates its founders, Edgar and Jean Camper Cahn, social justice advocates who championed the rights of low-income people and minorities. During the Cahn Legacy Weekend at UDC Law, held March 23-25, students, alumni, faculty and the law community will honor the legacy of the founders of UDC Law’s predecessor school, Antioch School of Law.

The three-day weekend is meant to uplift the next generation of law students and celebrate the Law School’s rich history. 

The Legacy Weekend begins with a Thursday memorial celebration for Edgar S. Cahn, a panel discussion, and a Women’s History Month tribute to Jean Camper Cahn on Friday. The UDC Law Review Symposium and the UDC Law Legacy Photo Exhibit and reception will occur on Saturday.   

Dr. Edgar S. Cahn and his wife Jean Camper Cahn co-founded the Antioch School of Law in 1972. Jean Camper Cahn died at 55 after a two-year battle with breast cancer in 1991. Dr. Edgar Cahn died on January 23, 2022, at 86, and he was part of the UDC Law community throughout his life.  

The couple was dedicated to improving the legal system by increasing access to justice, a belief that led them to create the Antioch School of Law—part of the Antioch University system— in Washington, DC, in 1972. Following the closure of Jean Cahn’s Urban Law Institute, she was determined to open a law school that continued its public interest and legal education model and developed the plan for Antioch. Under their leadership, students filed one thousand cases on behalf of members of the DC community who could not afford legal representation. 

The school’s mission was to provide law students with hands-on training and improve access to legal services in the DC community, giving rise to a clinical education model that can now be found in law schools nationwide. 

The couple served as co-deans of the school until 1980, when Antioch University began suffering financial trouble and resolved to close the law school. Students and alumni advocated keeping the school open. 

In 1986, the Council of the District of Columbia purchased the school and renamed it the District of Columbia School of Law. 

DC Council member Hilda Mason, whose advocacy was instrumental in the school’s reestablishment, asked the Cahns to join the new school and carry their vision forward. In 1988, they returned to the District to help select the DC School of Law’s inaugural class. Three years later, Jean Camper Cahn died.   

The DC School of Law was awarded provisional American Bar Association accreditation in 1991; it was incorporated into the University of the District of Columbia five years later. 

In 1998, the school was renamed the David A. Clarke School of Law and became a fully accredited law school in 2005.   

As a member of the UDC Law faculty, Professor Cahn taught Law & Justice, and a course on systems change. His research explored innovative legal strategies further to address the problems of underserved and economically disadvantaged communities. He published several articles, including “Beyond the New Property: The Right to Become and to Remain Productive” in the District of Columbia Law Reviewand “An Offer They Can’t Refuse: Racial Disparity in Juvenile Justice and Deliberate Indifference Meet Alternatives that Work,” with Cynthia Robbins in theUniversity of the District of Columbia Law Review. He argued for more effective methods of engaging youth in the justice system.   

Professor Cahn used the innovative time banking concept to organize the Time Dollar Youth Court in DC, hosted initially at UDC Law. The Youth Court utilized teen juries to judge cases where teens were arrested for non-violent offenses. Hearing nearly 800 cases per year with the help of more than 400 youth at one point, the Youth Court was one of the District’s most effective juvenile diversion programs. 

Cahn later became the official advisor for the National Blue Ribbon Commission on Restructuring Juvenile Justice in the District of Columbia and served as Vice Chair of the Mayor’s Juvenile Advocacy Group. Youth Courts are now recognized as effective youth diversion programs and are widely used.  

The David A. Clarke School of Law continues its commitment to the Cahns’ vision today. The Law School ranked fifth in the US News & World Report Best Law Schools for its clinical legal training. The Law School also provides 45,000 hours of service in the District each year. 

The Clinical Program at UDC Law provides free legal services to citizens of the District of Columbia and the DC Metro area who could not otherwise afford representation. 

Every student must participate in the Clinical Program, where they work on ongoing legal matters with individual clients and client organizations under the supervision of an experienced attorney-professor. 

Faculty and students at UDC Law work closely with individuals and organizations to advance access to justice while learning substantive law and skills. This clinical experience contributes to a better understanding of the law discovered in the classroom and gives UDC Law graduates a significant advantage in the workplace. 

The Cahn mission of hands-on training and supporting those who are less fortunate continues as students from varying career backgrounds choose to study at UDC’s Law School because of its public service focus.   

Cahn has been recognized for his contributions to social justice and law numerous times, often in tandem with Jean Camper Cahn. The 2019 UDC Law Gala honored the pair with the Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Champions of Justice Award. The Cahns received the Dorsey Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in 2009 for their dedication to equal justice. And in 1997, they received the William Pincus Clinical Award from the Association of American Law Schools for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Education. The Pennsylvania Bar Association and Swarthmore College have been awarded the Edgar and Jean Camper Cahn Law and Social Justice Award since 2011.  

Other awards and honors include the ABA Making a Difference through Community Service Award in 2009, the Daily Point of Light in 1998, the 2004 Servant of Justice Award from the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights Cornelius R. “Neil” Alexander Humanitarian Award in 2013.  

 For more information about the Cahn Legacy Weekend and to register, visit The events are free to attend.