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									SKILL SHARPENER                                                                                                                    1.800. 973. 1177

                          University of Iowa School of Law Offers Unique Clinical
                          [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

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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.
                                                  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.


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