Many prospective students often ask about the Law Center’s Clinical Education Program. So this week’s post attempts to answer some of those inquiries by explaining what the clinic work entails and highlighting the priceless benefits received by those participating in their 2 or 3L year at the UHLC. In a nutshell, here is what you should know:
The Law Center has six separate clinical courses that our students may take once they are in their 2L year. The clinics are the culmination of a student’s legal education and provide a bridge between the theory taught in class and the real-life practice of law that students find themselves upon graduation. Essentially, clinical education is “learning by doing.” Students in the clinics act as lawyers representing real clients in actual cases while under the close supervision of faculty.
In the Civil Practice, Consumer Law, and Immigration Clinics this means that students interview clients, develop a plan of action on behalf of their clients, draft and sign pleadings, argue motions, conduct discovery–including depositions, counsel their clients, negotiate settlements, try the case in court, and appeal the matter if necessary. Students in the Transactional Clinic also interview clients, counsel their clients as to the best course of action to accomplish their client’s objectives, negotiate agreements, draft the necessary documents, appear on behalf of the client before any regulatory or licensing agencies, and represent their clients at closings. The Criminal Practice Clinics require students act as prosecutors. This means that our students meet with the police, decide what charges to bring, draft and file indictments, bring and respond to motions, negotiate plea bargains, and try the cases. Students participating in the Mediation Clinic act as mediators trying to resolve disputes arising in the courts. In fact, the Law Center is the only law school that offers its students 40-hours of mediation training prior to gradation…for FREE!!
The ultimate goal of the clinical program is to prepare our students for the practice of law, so that when they graduate they are ready to hit the ground running. During the clinical experience, students will have most of the rights and responsibilities of a practicing attorney hired to solve a client’s problem. That means that the student will have to figure out the law governing the issue, develop a strategy for resolving the problem, and implementing a solution. However, our students are not alone in this process. Their work is continuously checked by a clinic supervisor who discusses with the student their strategy and implementation thereof, and how to perfect it for future cases. Moreover, a required classroom component for each clinic will discuss the subject-specific law involved in more detail. By the end of the semester our students have taken a substantial step forward in preparing to practice law through this combination of (1) working on real cases with real problems, (2) close faculty supervision of their work, and (3) discussing their clinic work in the clinic’s classrooms component.
To put this all in perspective, I wish to spotlight an extremely unique case that some very fortunate clinical students recently experienced. On December 14, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert on an immigration case in which the UH Law Center’s Immigration Clinic is co-counsel!! The case, Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, was argued before the Court on March 31, 2010. UHLC Clinical Associate Professor Geoffrey A. Hoffman, with the help of the Immigration Clinic, served as co-counsel with Sri Srinivasan of the Washington, D.C. firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP–who presented the oral argument. Two former clinic attorneys – Anne Chandler ’98 and Tom Perkinson ’00 – assisted as the case worked its way through the lower courts. Professor Hoffman and some of the students who helped research the merits brief visited Washington for the oral argument. Here is a photo: http://www.law.uh.edu/news/spring2010/0405scotus.html. For more on the case, click here: http://www.law.uh.edu/news/fall2009/1215immigration-clinic-scotus.html.
If that unique and honorable experience hasn’t quite sold you, here are some comments from a few students who participated in the clinical programs:
“Participating in the transactional clinic is a fantastic way to gain knowledge about business organizations. I would recommend this clinic to anyone interested in drafting contracts, dealing with clients, and learning the role contracts play in corporate operations.” — Ada Ferrer
“When you are in the Clinic you jump into the law where you directly advocate on behalf of those who really need it. It is an experience that cannot be learned in a classroom. Having real clients, with real emotions, where your creativity and skills makes a difference cannot be read in a textbook.” — Eric Benavides, 2L
“The Consumer Law Clinic is jam-packed with hands-on lessons in practical lawyering, from interviewing clients to drafting pleadings to trial appearances. It’s a real chance to make a difference for people who might otherwise not be able to defend their rights–and to do so in the context of a very collegial, supportive, and upbeat environment.” –Jackie Pontello, Class of 2004
“The Clinic is intense, but the practical hands-on experience you get has made it the most useful & worthwhile class of my law school time. This, coupled with the great feeling of helping people truly in need, has made the semester enjoyable.” — Vickie Slater, 3L, Immigration Clinic
To find out more about a specific clinic, please click on the following link: http://www.law.uh.edu/clinic/homepage.html