July 21, 2014
Learn the essentials of law practice -- interviewing and counseling clients, negotiating, advocating, drafting – in areas of law that are relevant to people. Here are some popular Civil Clinic placements, and recent students’ comments about their experiences.
Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake City: This summer three students are handing divorce, custody, and domestic violence cases. One recent student reports:
I have already gotten to see a full trial take place. I actually got to help draft questions for the witnesses during cross-examination as well. Even though an actual guardianship trial is magnitudes less bombastic than anything you could ever see on TV, I still found myself incredibly nervous. Because I had helped to draft cross-examination questions, I felt that a part of my performance, however small it may have been, was going to help determine the outcome of the case. It was very rewarding to watch a full, actual trial unfurl while I was watching from the benches. For the first time since starting law school, it felt like my work was actually going into something tangible—something with stakes and consequences.
Utah Legal Services: This summer five students are representing disabled clients seeking benefits, tenants facing eviction, victims of domestic violence, farmworkers, victims of human trafficking, ex-convicts seeking expungement, and clients dealing with the UCC and student loan problems. One recent student reflected upon the experience:
“It was not with excitement or exhilaration that I entered the front doors of Utah Legal Services, but rather trepidation and frustration. This was not the clinic I had wanted. This was not the “kind” of work that I saw myself going into. This old brick building lacked the glass-lined splendor that I imagined my first legal internship would have. . . The research came slowly. I was unacquainted with the substantive area of garnishment law and the many nuisances that came with it. At first I focused on the numerous legal issues at play. This lead to a dead end. . . . .So I started searching through the case file this time looking for the little facts that might help my research. Beyond the cold hard facts that outlined this client’s legal issue was a life, a life strewn with struggle and turmoil. The client was in debt. The client had rheumatoid arthritis. The client had mounting medical and living expenses with no viable means to pay those expenses. My client was being taken advantage of by a collection company with more power, knowledge, and resources. It was at this point that I realized just how real this woman’s situation was and realized that this woman was relying on me and my dedication to her case. So I kept researching, this time not for client number one, or for some case, but for my client and this case.”
Lokken and Associates: Represent parent in Juvenile Court abuse, neglect, parental termination cases. A student describes his supervisor dealing with these clients:
He is very clear, direct, and honest with his clients. He tells them their shortfalls, the consequences of their actions, and how they can fix their behaviors. In the end, he reminds them that their actions are theirs alone and if they continue, they can or will lose their children. He believes that there is no room to create confusion. Each client must understand their shortfalls and failures, and they must know that only they are responsible for fixing it.
Disability Law Center: Addresses legal problems arising from a client’s disability, e.g. institutional treatment or discrimination. This summer a student has been working to ensure disabled citizens are able to vote, representing a deaf client, and drafting numerous court documents.
Immigration Pro Bono: Students intern with one of two private law firms, working on pro bono cases and occasionally screening immigrants brought before the Court. A recent student describes the encounter with a client:
As he began to briefly recount what led him to be in ICE’s custody, he was in tears, notably afraid and worried that he was going to be deported. He had his children here, his youngest had a disability, but no other family and if deported he would be going back to a country that had nothing and no one that he knew or trusted. . . The volunteer lawyer decided he had a possible case to qualify for cancellation for removal. He decided to represent him at that proceeding pro bono and spoke on his behalf in front of the judge. It was a whirlwind of services provided from the back corner bench of a small courtroom. It helped me see the humanity behind the laws that are imposed and upheld in our system.
Holy Cross Ministries: Spanish-speaking students assist with U-VISA cases in which victims of crime may become lawful residents. A recent student describes the work:
During the interview the attorneys approached the clients very calmly and allowed the clients to share the incident, encouraging details when necessary and had so much compassion when using reflective listening. Validation was a key part in their interviewing approach that I recognized as monumental for calming the client and keeping her focused. It has been an incredible experience to collaborate and learn from the staff at Holy Cross and I look forward to gaining additional skills to better assist clients during my legal profession.