Nneka Morah is a 2017 J.D. candidate at the University of Houston Law Center, the Treasurer of the Black Law Students Association, and a Student Attorney with UHLC’s Immigration Clinic.
This past week I could not help but notice that the spring semester is quickly winding down. As I reflect on how much I have grown as an aspiring attorney this past year, and the many experiences that have brought me this far, most notable are my clinic experiences at the Law Center.
At the end of my first year, I decided I would try to take a clinic class every semester until I graduated. To me it presented an amazing opportunity to learn by doing, but also, to give back. Thus, I began my second year of law school with my first clinic class, the Consumer Dispute Resolution Clinic. There I learned about most of the dinner table law topics while helping the people of my community with legal issues ranging from landlord-tenant disputes to health insurance contract questions and car purchase agreement issues. At the end of the summer, I walked away with a basic knowledge of some of the critical everyday situations even I face. I remember how grateful an older lady was after I helped read through her health care contract, answered a few questions she had, and subsequently referred her to a health care attorney.
Next I registered for the Mediation Clinic. I had previously completed the 40-hour mediation training. During the fall of 2015, I volunteered my time, mediating cases at the Justice of the Peace court. Before the end of the semester, I decided to complete the Family Mediation training as well. Through this experience I got to see some of the processes of the alternative dispute resolution system in our country. This turned out to be a great networking opportunity as well. To this day, a Houston businessman whose case I settled thanks me for my service whenever he sees me.
This spring I have spent hundreds of hours in the Immigration Clinic. I have worked on a wide variety of cases. From helping an abandoned minor get legal status, to preparing and filing an asylum appeal, representing clients in immigration court, helping others get work authorization documents, and more, my knowledge of immigration laws has broadened. In addition to working independently and with co-counsel for my clients, I have learned timekeeping as well as billing. I can say I got to see the full picture of an immigration attorney’s busy and sometimes hectic life. This experience has been amazing and rewarding beyond measure. In fact, I received a summer job offer as a result of my work in the immigration clinic this semester.
As a result, I walk away from my second year of law school better able to take on the role of an attorney. I can honestly say that if at graduation my only choice was to become a solo practitioner, I am ready to take on the challenge. The clinic classes have prepared me for that possibility, and I am so glad that I didn’t miss out on all of the valuable experiences I have had this year in law school.
I look forward to taking more clinics in the coming year, and I am curious to see how many more lives will be impacted by my decision. To those who struggle with the decision to take a clinic, I say to you – look past the grades at the learning opportunities, life experiences, and people in need you help with every case, and give yourself this valuable opportunity.