A Professor Working in a Law Office?!

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A law professor helping out in a law office?  Can that work?  

Well, from the law professor’s perspective, at least, the answer is yes.

Two years ago Jeff Been, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Louisville proposed the Brandeis Partners for Justice Fellowship, a partnership between the University of Louisville’s School of Law and Legal Aid.  A faculty member from the law school spends a block of time at Legal Aid during the academic year or summer term. The arrangement lets the faculty member get familiar with some of the issues facing our graduates and others at Legal Aid, and also provides a reminder of what the daily practice of law is like.  In turn, the faculty member has the opportunity to contribute a bit to the mission at Legal Aid. 

I’m in my third week as the Brandeis Fellow at the Louisville Legal Aid Society and, thanks to the great staff at Legal Aid, thus far there has been plenty for me to do.  Several tasks have come my way because of my teaching specialty, which is legal writing.  Thus I’m busy revising the office manual for case handlers and working to reorganize a tenants’ rights manual for the housing unit.  I’ve also had the opportunity to look at some documents drafted by staff members, which provides a reminder to me of the volume of writing that lawyers produce in the practice of law.  

I’ve done some quick research projects, which I always enjoy, and am working on a more substantial issue that will take some time.  And yes, I’m already thinking, “Wow, this would be a good topic for an article.”  I may be doing some community outreach – contacting organizations that provide services to low-income individuals to explain some of the services available at Legal Aid.  Plus, just this week one of the lawyers let me tag along to district court, where the lawyer had two cases scheduled.  Both were quick and noncontroversial, but it was fun to be in the courtroom and watch the proceedings.

I am the second UofL Law School professor to participate in the Brandeis Partners for Justice Fellowship program – the first was Grosscurth Professor of Law John Cross.  John worked with the Legal Aid Society's consumer law unit to organize and conduct workshops on bankruptcy for over 100 clients.  I’m sure John will agree that the Partners for Justice Fellowship is a great opportunity.  I am confident I am gaining a fresh perspective that I can take into the classroom when I next teach.

I’ll try to provide an occasional update!