Friday, May 16, 2014

Immigration Article of the Day: Preparing Clinical Law Students for Advocacy in Poor People's Courts by Steven K. Berenson


Preparing Clinical Law Students for Advocacy in Poor People's Courts by Steven K. Berenson, Thomas Jefferson School of Law March 13, 2014 New Mexico Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, p. 363, 2013 Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 2408786

Abstract: Though the breadth and range of law school clinical course offerings is impressive, it is still the case that a plurality of law school clinical courses focus on the litigation of individual cases on behalf of poor clients. Yet relatively little in law students’ pre-law school experience or in their early law school experience is likely to prepare them well for the type of advocacy that is likely to be successful in poor people’s courts. Despite the recent growth of moot court, trial advocacy, and pre-trial practice courses, these courses do not focus on the features that distinguish poor people’s courts: overcrowded dockets, poor facilities, self-representation, and weak adherence to formal rules and procedures. As a result, the burden of preparing students for effective advocacy in poor people’s courts is likely to fall primarily upon clinical teachers.

This article offers a number of techniques that clinical law teachers can employ in helping better to prepare their students for such advocacy. The article also offers a defense of small-case or individual-client representation clinics against charges that such clinics fail to serve well clinical legal education’s twin core objectives of preparing students for the practice of law and advancing social justice. This article contends, in contrast, that such "case-centered" clinics do help students to develop skills that will serve them well in whatever area of law they choose to practice in. And while case-centered clinics have not led to broad social transformation, they have provided valuable services to many needy clients, while at the same time helping students to attain a deeper understanding of legal justice by exposing them to the vast gulf between the law in practice and the law on the books. Finally, such clinics will help to prepare students to develop emerging practices that seek to offer services in the previously underserved "justice gap." Thus, the ongoing role for case-centered clinics is established.


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