In the midst of a court fight with his landlord over an eviction notice, Tom Rankin asked
Jefferson District Court Judge Donald Armstrong if he needed a lawyer.
“It wouldn't hurt,” the judge responded, and on heir way out of the courtroom, Rankin was
approached by a representative of Legal Aid, which provides free legal help to people of
limited income, who said she could refer them to an attorney.
Well, he wasn't actually an “attorney,” officially speaking.
The Rankins were referred to the University of Louisville Law Clinic, where they met with Blake Nolan, a third-year law student, one of eight allowed to practice law last semester at the clinic on Muhammad Ali Boulevard, gaining experience while reaching out to an underserved population.
Nolan had never handled an eviction case, “But he was good,” Rankin said, and worked out an agreement with the landlord that led to the case being dismissed.
“He knew what he was doing,” Rankin said. “I was really impressed with the way he handled everything. … I really don't think I could have done it without him.”
Nolan was participating in a program launched in July 2009 that so far has allowed 25 U of L law students to help nearly 300 clients at no charge in Jefferson County Family and District courts — including 187 victims of domestic violence and their children seeking protective orders.
And the clinic is growing, with a record 15 students enrolled for the semester that began this month.
The clinic is primarily funded by gifts to the university and if the students take the clinic as a course, it is part of their law school tuition and fees. They must have at least 60 credit hours to sign up for the clinic, and receive four credits for their participation. They are able to work as practicing student attorneys through a limited license granted by the Kentucky Supreme Court, and only with supervision. In October, the Center for Women and Families, the Legal Aid Society and Law Clinic received a combined $438,000 in grant money to represent victims of domestic violence, allowing, in part, the funding of four more student attorneys and an additional part-time attorney to supervise them.
Shelley Santry, a U of L law professor and former prosecutor who heads the clinic, said the student attorneys funded by the new grant –— the clinic's share is $110,000 — will focus on custody cases for unmarried, low-income victims of domestic violence.
Many of those victims are unable to afford an attorney, and “No one does those kind of cases pro bono now,” she said. “Custody disputes are difficult, time consuming and often emotional.”
Santry said many schools across the country have long had similar clinics, which allow students who have had two years of learning through courses to “apply what they have learned to real people with real problems.”
“Our nurses,doctors and teachers all practice before they go into the real world,” she said. “Our lawyers don't. They graduate and they're like, ‘Where's the courthouse?' You just can't beat learning by doing in my opinion.”
Nolan, who has handled about 10 cases and will be back this semester at the clinic, agreed. “There's nothing better than getting some real world experience in a courtroom and in front of a judge,” he said.
It's also nice to be able to help people in need, said Julie Purcell, a 25-year-old rdthird-year student from Louisville who in December helped an elderly woman who was being evicted because the rent money she had given to a family member never made it to her landlord.
“It's just awesome,” said Purcell, who has handled about 20 cases, and was able to have the case dismissed, got Adult Protective Services involved and saw the woman moved into new housing.“We're able to learn so much, but at the same time provide a service to people that otherwise wouldn't get it.”
Chief Family Court Judge Patricia Walker FitzGerald said she regularly sees the student attorneys in her courtroom, usually in domestic-violence cases, and has found them to be well-prepared, asking good questions and “doing an excellent job” in often difficult cases.
“They've really stepped up to the plate to do a much needed service,” she said.
And alumni of the program are turning up as prosecutors and public defenders, and several have opened their own firms.
“Most people will graduate without ever having been in a real courtroom in front of a judge,” said Heend Sheth, who graduated in May and is a prosecutor with the Jefferson County Attorney's Office. “… And at the end of the day, you are helping people. You really do get to see your skills manifest in someone else's changed circumstances.”
Reporter Jason Riley can be reached at (502) 584-2197.
Reprinted with permission.
Source: "Louisville law students gain experience, help underserved through free clinic", by Jason Riley (Courier-Journal, January 23, 2011)
On Tuesday, February 8, at 12:15 p.m, the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions, with a member of the Character and Fitness Committee, will present a mandatory bar program for second year law students. The Board of Bar Examiners’ Character and Fitness Committee must certify graduating law students before they are allowed to sit for the bar. One fact the committee members look at closely is the applicant’s record of financial responsibility.
Judge Gary Payne, Character and Fitness Committee member, and Bonnie Kittinger, Director and General Counsel, will discuss financial responsibility in the context of professionalism and a lawyer’s obligation to uphold the values of the profession. Judge Payne will discuss how financial debt can evidence a lack of responsibility and further, how debt can lead to financial pressures and interfere with a lawyer’s duties to his or her clients.
ABA Standard 302(a)(5) requires that each student receive substantial instruction in “the history, goals, structure, values, rules and responsibilities of the legal profession and its members.” In addition, Interpretation 302-6 requires that the School of Law “involve members of the bench and bar in the instruction required by Standard 302(a)(5).” This program is designed to provide instruction on professionalism issues concerning law students and lawyers and also to satisfy the ABA’s requirement in Standard 302(a)(5).
Attendance at the February 8 program is required for all students graduating at the times noted (primarily this is 2Ls). Please mark your calendars now and plan to attend. If you have an absolute conflict that will prohibit you from attending the February 8 program, you must notify Dean Bean, email@example.com, and provide documentation concerning your conflict.
Please contact Dean Bean if you have questions.
The U.S. Army JAG will be conducting interviews on campus for interested first- and third-year students. First-year students may apply for summer intern positions and third-year students may apply for active duty positions. If you are interested in interviewing with Captain Schlueter, please submit your resume by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP.
All On-Campus Interviewers are requested to read and agree to a non-discriminationpolicy. This non-discrimination policy is for military recruiters. In order to conduct job interviews in the law school or to obtain assistance from the Career Services Office, prospective employers must sign a statement of nondiscrimination based on race, color, religion, nationality, gender, disability or sexual orientation. Federal laws relating to military service preclude representatives of the Armed Forces from signing the nondiscrimination statement in its entirety. Congress also has enacted a statute, known as the Solomon Amendment, requiring that federal funding -- including several categories of student loans -- be terminated at any educational institution that refuses access to military recruiters. Therefore, the law school grants access to military recruiters who sign the nondiscrimination statement to the extent consistent with federal law.
A message from Deans Arnold and Bean: Recently, several Lambda Law Caucus meeting signs were removed prior to the organization’s meeting date. The law school administration requests that all students, staff, and faculty respect the members of our law school community, including our organizations. Active student organizations enrich the law school and the educational, intellectual and social experiences of our students, staff, and faculty. To this end, student organizations are permitted and encouraged to post signs in traditional posting areas, to provide information about their meetings and programs. Please support our student organizations and let us know if you witness any behavior calculated to interfere with an organization’s postings, whether by a member of the law school community or by anyone else.
Being organized is essential to being a good attorney. Law school is a great place to learn better organizational skills. Here are some tips that can improve your organization:
- Keep all of your law school study materials in one place in your home rather than scattered in many areas. When you have finished with study materials, return them immediately to that designated place.
- Before you go to bed at night, sort out the materials you need to take to school the next day and put them together.
- Keep student organization materials in folders or notebooks separate from your course materials.
- Keep materials for your part-time work in folders or notebooks separate from your course materials.
- Keep the syllabus, case briefs, class notes, and handouts for a course together in a 3-ring binder. Designate a separate 3-ring binder for each of your classes.
- If color helps you organize, use different colored folders or binders for school courses, work, student organizations, etc.
- Read your syllabus carefully; highlight due dates and transfer them immediately to your calendar.
- Always date your class notes.
- Have as many consistent abbreviations as possible to use in your notes and outlines for all classes. For each new subject, decide on special abbreviations for that class to use in your notes and outlines and stay consistent.
- If bold, italics, underlining, all capitals and/or font changes help you learn, use them consistently in your outlines.
- Have a consistent system to indicate material that your professor emphasized in class. For example: insert a star, underline the material, highlight the material in a different color, etc.
- Have a consistent system to indicate material that you have questions about. For example: “Q”, “?”, red asterisk, red ink, etc.
- If flow charts help you, use a large dry erase board for formulating a flow chart before you finalize it on paper or on your computer.
- Regularly back-up your computer files on a thumb drive or CD.
Structured Study Groups meet today from 1:00 to 2:00. Room numbers are listed below:
Elisabeth Fitzpatrick Room 075
John Friend Room 080
Samantha Hupman Room 171
Ross Jordan Room 079/071
Vince Kline Room 275
Greg Mayes Room 270
Brittany McKenna Room 077
Thomas Stevens Room 060
Amanda Warford Room 177