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Date Created: 12/21/15
SKILL SHARPENER 1.800.973.1177 University of Iowa School of Law Offers Unique Clinical Program [by Anayat Durrani] The University of Iowa offers a clinical program to help law students put their legal training to good use. The program includes ev- erything from helping criminal defendants charged with serious and aggravated misdemeanors to protecting the rights of disabled workers, representing survivors of domestic violence to promoting international human rights. Unlike some law schools, which may offer are eligible to sign up for the lottery. She financial hardship or to contest questionable one or two clinical programs, Iowa fea - confirmed that there are about 45 students practices of creditors. tures at least eight different ways in which in all the clinical programs each of the three students can learn first-hand how to be an semesters. Iowa officials cite one case in which a lo effective advocate in the school’s “law firm, cal bank had arranged a bogus sale of a the legal clinic.” According to Professor John Professor Schwartz stated that “popular roommate’s automobile to a client and also Whiston, a faculty member for the Clinical practice areas vary from semester to se - persuaded her to assume the roommate’s Program who oversees the criminal defense mester.” Depending upon student interest, liability on a credit card. When the room - and civil rights litigation practice areas, “All hot areas constantly change. This semester mate who still had title to the car returned, clinics are hands-on. Our clinic operates there are still a variety of popular areas. Pro the bank left the client in the lurch without on a law firm model, that is, there are not fessor Whiston reported, “The in-house clinic transportation and also brought an $18,000 separate clinics for domestic violence or is the most popular and the areas of practice collection action against her. With the assis- bankruptcy, etc. Instead, a student would be most commonly requested are immigration, tance from the students in the clinic, officials working in several areas for several faculty criminal defense and assistive technology.” say, the client escaped liability on both debts. supervisors.” In addition, students receive 9 hours of credit for a semester, a significant Students benefit from the level of respon - Those more interested in trying out their amount, which reflects the time commitment sibility and experience they gain. Professor courtroom skills can gravitate toward the and level of participation required. Schwartz states that students work on both criminal defense specialty. There, students complex and simple cases, and can work in help defendants charged with such seri - Each semester, faculty members super - one or more working group if they choose to ous and aggravated misdemeanors such vise about 35 students. The program areas get a broader exposure to different types of as operating while intoxicated, possession include Consumer Rights, Criminal Defense, legal work. “Students have a lot of autono - of controlled substances, and theft and as - Domestic Violence, Disability Rights, Human my,” she said. sault. In one case, officials note, a client was Rights, Immigration, Non-Profit Organiza - charged with third degree theft, which caries tions and Externships. It is not uncommon for them to appear in a sentence of two years. Under the supervi - state and federal appeals courts, states sion of a professor, the students conducted a The clinc at the law school is very popular. As Professor Schwartz. “They do trials on their suppression hearing and a two-day jury trial Professor Whiston, stated, “Each semester own, they participate in every aspect of rep- with expert medical testimony. Although the we have room for approximately 25 students resentation, with supervision from full-time trial ended in a hung jury, officials say, the in the in-house clinic and 10 in various members of the faculty. students succeeded in having the retrial pro - externships. The clinic is usually oversub - ceedings dismissed on speedy trial grounds. scribed and so students are chosen by a In the consumer rights area students repre - lottery mechanism.” sent clients on a variety of issues, including The criminal defense area affords students a helping them seek bankruptcy relief, and high level of responsibility, usually reserved Professor Barbara Schwartz, who oversees enforcing the protections of federal and for junior associates. “Students handling the immigration and criminal defense work - state consumer credit legislation. Officials criminal defense cases will interview and ing groups noted that there is a full clinical say the students help individuals who would counsel clients, file pleadings, represent program in the summer, so students have not otherwise have counsel recover from the defendants at suppression hearings, trials, at least four semesters during which they financial disruption caused by unexpected and sentencing. In my prison cases, students PAGE 1 continued on back SKILL SHARPENER 1.800.973.1177 have met with clients at various prisons, offers a program in which students help written briefs, presented evidence, tried survivors of domestic violence gain orders cases and argued cases orally to the Iowa of protection from the courts and contempt Supreme Court and the United States Eighth sanctions against those who violate such Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Professor orders. Whiston. Often, because of the urgency of the situ- One of Iowa’s most noted practice areas ations, the students have to work quickly is disability rights. There, students help to interview clients and witnesses, obtain disabled individuals secure equipment evidence, and prepare for court appearances, needed for school, work or at home. The officials say. The cases are often trying and students also work with community groups to eye-opening for students. Officials note improve the lives of persons with disabilities. that students have assisted clients whose The clinic has been involved in successful abusers have burned all their clothing, or campaigns to enact assistive technology con- displayed intimate photographs of them in sumer protection laws and small business public places. tax credits, to make Iowa City’s park trails and facilities accessible to the disabled, and In the spring of 2001, the school initiated to have Iowa City fund, build and sell a single a new program in which students repre- family home that showcases universal design sent non-profit organizations. Thus far, the features. students have advised 17 nonprofit clients, doing everything from drafting articles of in- The program was recently bolstered by a corporation and bylaws to creating nonprofit $1.25 million gift from Stanley and Gail Rich- corporations under Iowa law. Students often ards, whose oldest son, Scott, was diagnosed attend board meetings of their clients and as developmentally challenged in 1963. Mr. advise them on general business matters. Richards, an alumnus of Iowa College of Law, is a consultant to and former general “Students feel doubly rewarded because they counsel and president of General Growth are learning good transactional legal skills Properties. and they are working with members of the local community to help them accomplish “Scott is fortunate to have worked the past their dreams for a better world,” according 17 years for the same employer and to be to a university statement. able to live independently,” Mrs. Richards said in a statement. “Peter Blanck, the dis- In recent years, immigration issues have ability center’s director is a great advocate reared to the forefront of Iowa’s clinics. for Iowans and others living with disabilities. Students work on issues of asylum, removal We want to support the center in enabling defense and family-based immigration, as adults to be gainfully employed in workplac- well as in securing protection for foreign na- es where their strengths and limitations are tionals from human rights violations in their understood.” home countries. The clinic has represented about 200 hundred clients, officials note, in- The funding will be used to expand the cen- cluding those from Ethiopia, the Democratic ter’s programs and promote awareness of Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, the Congo the rights and interests of disabled persons. Republic, Senegal, Somalia, Angola, Sudan and Viet Nam. Of the cases that have been For those able to take on the emotionally completed, officials say, every client has wrenching cases of domestic violence, Iowa been granted relief. PAGE 2
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