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Let's All Do It: Law School Clinics

Law Clinic

“We got the letter; we have been granted asylum” was the text message I read from a client earlier this year; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a sub-department of the Department of Homeland Securities, granted our clients asylum within the United States. I, along with my fellow clinic partner, worked for months on the assembly of an asylum application for a client who faced persecution in her home country. It was not easy and the process included a great number of people who supported the Clinic and the case itself. We researched and found neighboring physicians, social workers and those of other professions capable of bolstering the case with evidentiary support, all done pro bono. It was an amazing experience for all parties involved, to say the least. This case, along with the other diverse legal matters and clients I encountered, was surely one of the highlights of my law school career.

It is an experience that I wish, if not all, a majority of law students could embark upon. The reward is invaluable and the work itself is encouraging, which is why I believe the admissions process to the WVU College of Law Clinical Program, under its new model, may need to be modified to accommodate the influx of students who wish to join.

The process to joining a majority of the law clinical programs at WVU has changed over the years; it has shifted from enrolling in required perquisite courses in the first and or second year to the current lottery system. While the lottery system is meant to ease an imbalance of student attorneys in one clinic over another and promote commitment from those who entered the cycle, it, like any other system, has its shortcomings. For instance, students who took courses in their second year as a prerequisite to their desired clinical program may or may not be eligible to partake in the experience due to low lottery numbers. There are many students, now more than ever in the past, that are anxious to join the clinical programs in hopes of gaining practical experience before entering the legal profession in full force.

Law school clinics, in general, help a class of people that many law firms would otherwise turn away and/or permit a class of people legal aid they otherwise would not have been able to afford. The CoL clinical program, for instance, helps only those of a certain income and who are below or at the poverty lines. The Federal Poverty Guidelines, amongst other determining factors, serves as the basis for the free representation by the clinic. The WVU CoL Clinical Program was actually awarded the 2012 Excellence in Pro Bono Award from the national rating service Super Lawyers, which recognizes only one law school each year. I am hopeful that the kinks of this new model will work itself out somehow so that the state and essentially the U.S. can host more of the best attorneys West Virginia has to offer.

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