February 23, 2009
AALS Clinical Section Newsletter - Deadline for Submissions
Professor Kimberly O'Leary, who serves as the AALS Clinical Section newsletter editor has posted the following announcement:
The deadline for submissions to the spring edition of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education is Monday, April 13. Please e-mail items of reasonable length to me. Items can include:
--stories about your clinics or your students
--promotions, new hires, honors, awards
--publications by clinicians
--information of interest related to the clinical conference May 5-9 in Cleveland
--any other items of interest to clinical legal educators
Due to an increasing number of lengthy press releases, I ask that you edit your material about your schools to a reasonable length; I reserve the right to cut back any article. We love hearing about what you are all doing, but for example six pages about one program is too long! I look forward to hearing from you.
February 11, 2009
ABA Tax Section Survey
The ABA Tax Section is working with one of its sponsors to collect information on how tax practitioners conduct tax research including:
What tools are useful to you, and how you prefer to receive legal information that is useful in your practice. The survey should only take about 10 minutes of your time. If you choose to complete it, your confidentiality is assured, and your name and/or any other personal information is not associated with the answers you provide. In addition, as a thank-you, a question near the end of the survey asks if you wish to enter a drawing for one of three $100 AMEX gift cards. If you choose to enter the drawing, you will be asked for an e-mail address, which is only used to notify you if you win.
The survey is available here. -jl
December 25, 2008
ABA Tax Section Survey Shows Need to Match Pro Bono Volunteers with Low Income Taxpayer Clinics
The American Bar Association Section of Taxation conducted a survey of Low Income Taxpayer Clinics around the country to gauge their need for assistance from pro bono attorneys. LITCs represent low-income taxpayers before the IRS in audit, appeals, collection and federal tax litigation issues; their services are available free or for a nominal fee. Representatives from more than half of the nation’s 150 LITCs responded to the survey. While most reported a need for increased tax services for the poor, they cited a lack of personnel and resources necessary to manage and train pro bono volunteers to help in the clinics. Clinic staff also noted several barriers to seeking outside assistance, including the lack of qualified, interested pro bono volunteers, too little time to organize them and too few resources to provide adequate training.
In response to the survey results, the ABA Tax Section is developing an online pro bono match program for those Low Income Taxpayer Clinics that seek outside tax assistance for current and potential clients. The service will enable LITC personnel to go online and describe their needs, while allowing section members who are interested in pro bono work to sign up and locate the clinics that need their help. The section will also develop training materials to help members become familiar with issues specific to LITC clients, such as the earned income tax credit, stimulus payment protocols and English as a Second Language issues. Through its outreach to taxpayers, the section will also help publicize the LITCs and the tax assistance they provide nationwide.
More information about the ABA Tax Section and its pro bono efforts is available here. -jl
December 11, 2008
Wake Forest Introduces Innocence and Justice Clinic
The Wake Forest University School of Law's new Innocence and Justice Clinic will give students the unique opportunity to examine the legal, scientific, cultural and psychological causes of wrongful convictions. The interdisciplinary course begins in the spring semester of 2009. Students will then apply their knowledge to actual cases by reviewing and investigating claims of innocence by inmates and, where appropriate, pursue legal avenues for exoneration and release from prison. Students will meet two hours a week to examine and discuss the substantive law that addresses the causes and remedies associated with wrongful convictions. Students will be placed in pairs and assigned actual cases to investigate situations in which inmates are claiming innocence. The class will review criminal files, interact with police investigators, contact prosecuting attorneys, gather documentation, prepare legal documents and memos and apply critical legal skills to a client’s case. Students will meet with faculty to discuss the ongoing progress of their cases and what needs to be accomplished to further the review and investigation of the inmate’s claim.
Topics covered in the classroom will include mistaken eyewitness identification; false confessions; “junk” forensic science; the role of forensic DNA testing; post-conviction remedies for innocence claims; the use of “jailhouse snitches” and cooperating witnesses; police and prosecutorial misconduct; and re-entry programs and post-conviction remedies. The class will discuss proper investigation and interview techniques with guest speakers from local law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices. Carol Turowski and Mark Rabil, co-directors of the Wake Forest Innocence Project, will teach the three-credit clinical course. In addition to the creation of the Innocence and Justice Clinic, the student-run Innocence Project has been made a formal student organization. The Innocence Project will explore joint projects with The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice to focus on educating the public about wrongful convictions; protesting executions and injustices in the system; and supporting families of those incarcerated, among others. “We hope through the new Innocence and Justice Clinic and the student Innocence Project to create collaborative learning experiences between the programs that fit in with the University’s goal of a more integrative learning experience,” Turowski said.
Associate Dean Ron Wright described the Innocence and Justice Clinic as “the latest component of our larger effort to enrich the experiential learning available to Wake Forest students.” The law school, under the direction of Dean Blake Morant, is expanding clinical opportunities, and exploring externships and other methods of integrating the classroom with the realities of legal practice. “Our current students, our alumni, and even some prospective students are very excited about this new clinic,” Wright said. The new clinic and the student organization are an outgrowth of the School of Law’s DNA Innocence Project that began during the 2007-2008 academic year. When the Forsyth County Bar Association began a project to identify prisoners who might benefit from DNA testing to demonstrate their innocence, it received so many requests that the Bar Association asked for help from Wake Forest law students. The Law School agreed to manage the project under the auspices of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence. -jl
November 12, 2008
Boalt Hall's East Bay Community Law Center Celebrates 20th Anniversary
Congratulations go out to Professor Jeffrey Selbin and the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC). Prof. Selbin is the faculty director of EBCLC which just celebrated its 20th Anniversary. A 17-minute video describing EBCLC's work and mission was produced especially for the occasion and is available here. -jl
November 02, 2008
The Economic Crisis and Legal Clinics: Stories from the Field, Part 4
It is too early to predict whether the economic crisis will have a protracted impact on the U.S. legal system, but there are signs. University of Montana Professor Eduardo Capulong advised of a New York Times article, Financial Crisis Provides Fertile Ground for Boom in Lawsuits, which centers around lawsuits by investors, including individual shareholders and large companies, noting "Events have moved quickly enough that some lawyers have found that their lawsuits may have been filed too early, before the biggest losses and consequently before the biggest damage claims were possible."
Law schools with bankruptcy, tax, consumer credit and other finance-related clinics have already seen a huge influx of cases and demand, which even in good times is always greater than available services. For other law school clinics, it may be some time before they find out just how the crisis will impact their communities and clients. Syracuse Professor and Director of Clinical Legal Education Mary Helen McNeal advises, "It does feel as though our intake requests have increased from prior years. We have done more outreach this year for some of our clinics, so that may be the cause, but I suspect the economy has something to do with it as well."
Law schools with investor protection and securities law clinics may in fact be waiting for the smoke to clear before accepting cases that are sure to be pedagogical gold mines. As the NY Times piece notes, claims cannot be assessed until the market determines the worth of these financial instruments.
Meanwhile, nonprofit legal clinics, which generally see more clients than academic legal clinics, report from the field that the situation is indeed dire. Attorney Bruce D. Strom Executive Director of Administer Justice writes:
Not surprisingly we see what the others see. We are located in the county west of Chicago and have seen a sharp increase in need. In addition to running the LITC [low income taxpayer clinic] program our primary service is low-income legal. Our foreclosure cases are up 400% and many of these families are middle class families who lived too close to the edge and did not have enough savings to sustain them and now find themselves in poverty. The poverty population in our county has increased 221% and now represents 28% of our total population. We see resultant strains on families which has increased the number of divorces, bankruptcies, and consumer debt matters. Every day our clinic sees walk-ins, our appointments have gone from a one week wait to an eight week wait and we are at full capacity. We would normally serve around 1,200 clients and this year that number will exceed 3,000. Unfortunately with funding cuts we cannot sustain that and are being forced to turn people away to homeless and domestic abuse shelters that are already operating at strained capacities. I fear it is not going to get better and like the others we will continue to do all we can within our limited resources.
October 31, 2008
The Economic Crisis and Legal Clinics: Stories from the Field, Part 3
Stories have been coming in from Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, Illinois and New York. While the effect of the economic crisis on legal clinics is not regional, there are areas of the U.S. where the sharp impact is undeniable. Arlene Kane, with Legal Aid of Palm Beach County, reports: "Our LITC [low income taxpayer clinic] is in Palm Beach County, Florida. I see daily the people in our clinic who are in foreclosure or are about to be. Some through no fault of their own and some who did bite off more than they knew they could afford. But most were led through this by lenders who knew they could not afford the cost of these homes, even if they kept their jobs."
Tax clinics continue to see a steady stream of clients who had one legal problem, such as a foreclosure, that has developed into a different, related issue. As Prof. Diana Leyden notes, the IRS may be quicker to target possible revenue sources and less likely to let taxpayers off the hook, despite their inability to pay. Ms. Kane agrees, "IRS has been less then speedy releasing Levies on Federal payments. So, we are seeing many folks who have done what they needed to do to get in "full compliance" and still have 1 or 2 more months levied. Then it takes forever to get the funds returned, if ever."
The economic downtown has also resulted in substantial decreases in public and private funding for the provision of free or low-cost legal services. Ms. Kane addresses this stark reality, "We have a large homeless population here. Legal Aid, United Way and many community organizations are trying to help all the folks that are suffering. Many places are running out of funds and donations are down, as the people that were donating are now looking for help for themselves." -jl
October 26, 2008
The Economic Crisis and Legal Clinics: Stories from the Field, Part 2
As I mentioned in my first post in this series, I will be including several stories from legal clinics across the country, both academic and non-profit, to get a glimpse of the effect the economic crisis is having on legal service providers. Tara Rosenblum, managing attorney of the Quincy office of Legal Services of North Florida reports her practice has seen a marked increase in recent months:
"I was just discussing this with staff the other day. We have never been busier, in all areas--foreclosures, evictions from subsidized housing, dissolutions of marriage, suits for credit card non-payment, dependency procedures for abused, abandoned, and neglected children, bankruptcy and tax. In the last three weeks I have had 15 clients served with evictions or notices prior to eviction. Last Thursday I received applications for five new tax cases, including a final notice of intent to levy on a deficiency involving a 1099C on a foreclosure and two EITC/Filing Status/Dependency Exams that had been responded to but denied by the IRS. This is at a small, rural legal services office that served 667 families total in 2007."
Paul Harrison, of the Community Tax Law Project in Richmond, VA confirms that rural taxpayers are feeling the pinch, "I would say that the signs of the economic downturn began appearing in 2004 and 2005 with gradual increases in AUR [Automated Under Reporter] cases involving COD [cancellation of indebtedness] income. This was especially noticeable among elderly and disabled taxpayers in rural areas. It has increased pretty consistently since then and is now one of the staples of our practice."
The situation is not likely to improve anytime soon and legal clinics practicing in areas even tangentially related to finance will continue to experience increased demand. Tara Rosenblum knows that low-income workers have it especially tough when it comes to pursuing a legal claim: "I think that as those with the least have to rely on family and friends for survival, and stay in one place less, filing status, dependency, and EITC exams will become more difficult to successfully challenge."
With just days left before the presidential election, a number of policy proposals on job creation have been proffered by the candidates. It is clear that jobs are at the heart of the matter. Ms. Rosenblum concurs, "We are seeing an increase in the other areas because they are directly related to money. People are tapped out. They've used all their credit, they've been fighting with their spouse for months, they can't keep the lights on so the state takes their children. We can help them with their legal problem, but we can't create a job." -jl
October 23, 2008
Primer on Clinical Legal Education: Second Installment (a.k.a. "The Mother Lode")
Since my first installment, Professor Vanessa Merton delivered a wonderfully complete answer to a prospective clinical law prof's query: "What Resources Exist for Folks Interested in Entering the Academy as a Clinical Law Professor?" Professor Merton has graciously allowed me to post her response, which could very well make further posts on this subject superfluous:
Here's a compendium of ideas I've sent to folks over the years. If you’re serious about this academic thing, you need to gear up the way you’d gear up for a heavy trial. Learn some of the history so you better understand what’s happening now: start with overall perspective from Robert Stevens, Law School: Legal Education in America from the 1850s to the 1980s. Then focus on the history of clinical education, e.g., Margaret Martin Barry, Jon C. Dubin & Peter A. Joy, Clinical Education for This Millennium: The Third Wave, 7 Clinical L. Rev. 1 (2000).
Read through Best Practices for Legal Education – all of it – takes about four hours to eyeball the pages, get the basic concepts. (You can get it for free.) Or read it more carefully if you really want to impress (and learn). If you’re determined to wow, do the same with the Carnegie Foundation’s Educating Lawyers and Greg Munro’s Outcomes Assessment for Law Schools. Read the MacCrate Report, a/k/a Legal Education and Professional Development: An Educational Continuum, published by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Poke around that website for a while. You could benefit from reading through the ABA’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools and three of the Section's recent Committee reports on Outcome Measures, Security of Position, and Transparency.
Look through the materials generated by the Institute for Law School Teaching at Gonzaga Law, which you should be able to find in any decent law school library.
Go to the CLEA website: Just a wealth of ways to learn the vocabulary -- read the Mission Statement, dive into past CLEA Newsletters to get a sense of current and perennial issues, read through the CLEA Bibliography of Clinical Teaching and Scholarship, read the New Clinicians Handbook, etc.
You should be familiar with LexternWeb and the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education, and perhaps Washburn Law's list of Best Law Teacher nominees.
Read some classics: Tony Amsterdam’s Clinical Legal Education - A 21st Century Experience, 34 J. Legal Educ. 612 (1984); Learning from Practice (2d ed.) by Ogilvy et al. and Chavkin’s Clinical Legal Education. If you can get your hands on them, read through The Lawyering Process: Materials for Clinical Instruction in Advocacy, by Bellow and Moulton, and Dvorkin, Himmelstein and Lesnick, Becoming a Lawyer: A Humanistic Perspective on Legal Education and Professionalism.
It'd be useful to skim through as many back issues of the Clinical Law Review as you can -- available at any law school library, and abstracts of most CLR articles are accessible from the CLEA website. Then there's the Journal of Legal Education –- reading through several back issues (you did say this is what you want to do for a living, didn’t you?) can help you pick up on what's happening in legal academe in general.
Go to the Society of American Law Teachers website and browse. Attend a SALT Public Interest retreat where you will meet the coolest law professors.
Natch, if you can find out who is actually interviewing you, it wouldn't hurt to peruse one or two of their latest articles and read their bios.
Also could check out:
Breaking into the Academy: The University of Michigan Journal of Race and Law Guide to Programs for Aspiring Law Professors. The Guide was designed to help law students and lawyers break into legal academics. It contains advice on negotiating the application process, addresses and phone numbers of helpful organizations and citations to articles about the demographics of the law teaching profession. In addition, the Guide contains listings of Law Teaching Fellowship Programs, Graduate Law Degree Programs and Legal Methods Teaching Programs which might be of interest to those considering law teaching. Additional resources are available in Eric Goldman's piece Careers in Law Teaching, as well as Douglas J. Whaley, Teaching Law: Advice for the New Professor, 43 Ohio St. L. J. 125 (1982).
A good way in may be through one of the numerous teaching fellowships now available.
Also you should be aware of, if not regularly following, blogs like:
Write a book or two, of course. Failing that, find a book or two that really intrigues you or pisses you off and write a book review. You’ll quite possibly be able to get it published quickly.
Again, heartfelt thanks to Prof. Merton. -jl
October 20, 2008
The Economic Crisis and Legal Clinics: Stories from the Field, Part I
In what is likely to become a regular series on this Blog, I am beginning to collect the experiences of legal service providers as they struggle to deal with the overflow of demand as a result of the recent economic downturn. I will post stories from academic and non-academic legal clinics - after all, we are inseparably one writ large.
University of New Mexico Law Professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez reports the law school's clinics "always have more demand for our services than we can meet, so it is hard to tell if the need is greater. The interesting thing we are seeing is the number of people facing foreclosure. One of our community legal service partners has two attorneys working on nothing but foreclosure cases."
Syracuse Law Professor Robert Nassau confirms the wave of foreclosures has increased one aspect of his tax practice, his low income taxpayer clinic has seen a "significant increase in the number of cancellation-of-indebtedness cases -- mostly home foreclosures, but also some credit card write-offs and even a student loan write-off." As many taxpayers know, or will soon find out, Sec. 61(a)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code provides that cancellation of indebtedness income (also referred to as discharge of indebtedness income) must be included in gross income, subject to certain exceptions.
University of Connecticut Law Professor Diana Leyden also notes that while her academic tax clinic does not deal directly with bankruptcy or foreclosure cases, "What we have seen lately, and I am not sure if it is directly related to the economic downturn but suspect it is, is that the IRS is getting to delinquent accounts faster and Appeals is much tougher." Professor Leyden provides the following example:
In the past as part of a Collection Due Process hearing request, even though we might not be legally entitled to raise liability issues or penalty waivers, our local office would listen and try to help our clients get to yes. Now, they inform us in no uncertain terms that any such discussion is foreclosed. We then end up doing an audit reconsideration, often times having the case transferred to a local exam function after waiting 3-4 months with no action, all the while ruining our client's lives, stressing our limited resources, and increasing the burdens on the IRS.
It is not surprising that certain legal clinics, such as those handling bankruptcies and foreclosures, will be the hardest hit for the foreseeable future. Slightly less obvious is the effect the current economic crisis will have on the general public, specifically, taxpayers. Professor Leyden makes an important observation: "The reason I said I thought this was related to the economic downturn is that I sense that Treasury/IRS is now trying hard to collect everything it can to help with the "bailout" and deficit and once again we see a resurgence in going after the low lying fruit - low income taxpayers." -jl
September 22, 2008
CSALE SURVEY RESULTS ARE HERE
The Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE) is happy to announce that the results of its 2007-08 Survey of Applied Legal Education are now available free of charge at www.CSALE.org. The results provide valuable insight into the state and nature of applied legal education in areas including program design and structure, pedagogical techniques and practice, and the treatment of applied legal educators in the legal academy. Over 147 schools provided data on their overall programs, challenges they face, and the rights and responsibilities of those teaching in them. Four hundred and ten in-house, live client clinics and 235 field placement programs provided detailed information on how they teach and operate. And hundreds of individual clinicians provided information on a wide range of topics including voting rights, promotion and retention standards, and compensation. For a report summarizing the results, or to get the raw data, please visit www.CSALE.org. (N.B. Special thanks go out to Prof. David Santacroce for patiently working with me while I recently mined the comprehensive and invaluable data sets provided by CSALE.-jl )
July 28, 2005
Christian Science Monitor Features Pace Environmental Clinic
Pace Law School's Environmental Litigation Clinic takes center stage in an article published in the July 26, 2005 online edition of the Christian Science Monitor. The article gives readers insight into the general pedagogical goals of clinical education and features the assessments of student-lawyers and clinical professors. The article also takes a broader look at the particular challenges that confront environmental law clinics.
July 17, 2005
Clinic Profile: Elga Cegla Clinical Legal Education Programs at Tel Aviv University
While preparing to teach a course on international women's rights, I came across Michael Kagan's opinion piece, The Missing Third Leg of UN Accountability in the Global Politician. Turns out Kagan is an instructor at Tel Aviv University's Refugee Rights Clinic. Since I didn't know anything about Tel Aviv University's law clinics, I did a little digging - here's what I learned.
The English version of TAU's website explains that the Tel-Aviv University law faculty established the Elga Cegla Clinical Legal Education Programs to "enhance the involvement of the Israeli legal community in the advancement of social and legal justice," and "to promote throughout the law school a legal culture dedicated to social justice." The TAU law clinic lists some impressive accomplishment in diverse legal arenas. The TAU Criminal Justice Program served as a model and a catalyst for the establishment of the National Public Defender’s Office. The Refugee Rights Clinic is Israel’s first and only program specializing in promoting and protecting refugee and asylum-seekers rights. The TAU law clinic was successful in having an Israeli court recognize the right of same sex partners to inherit from their partners, even if they die without leaving a will. The Community Law Center helped secure a precedent-setting opinion in the Israeli Supreme Court, establishing access to water as a basic right that cannot be denied to indigent persons.
The TAU law clinics include the Human Rights Program, the Criminal Justice Program,the Social Welfare Law Program, the Refugee Rights Clinic, the Environmental Justice Program, the Jaffa Community Law Program, and the Micro-business and Economic Justice Program. TAU is also the home of the Buchman Law Faculty's Public Interest Law Resource Center.
Kagan argues that "the moment has come for human rights advocates to join the campaign for UN reform." In Kagan's view, what the UN lacks are "mechanisms of accountability that would be accessible to the people who depend on UN agencies the most."
Kagan cites as a prime example the need to develop accountability mechanisms to address UN agency policies toward women refugees. For example, says Kagan "the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA), [has] since the 1950s forced women to receive assistance through either their father or their husband; they cannot be registered as Palestinian refugees in their own right, and cannot pass on the status to their children. This is a direct violation of major human rights conventions, but it continues nonetheless."