Tuesday, May 28, 2024

2024 CLEA Awards for Outstanding Clinical and Externship Students: Virginia's Ellen Florek

Each year, the Clinical Legal Education Association invites law schools to nominate students as their Outstanding Clinic Student or Team and Outstanding Externship student. This series includes submissions from law schools celebrating their outstanding students. 

From the University of Virginia: 

Outstanding Clinic Student: Ellen Florek

Ellen has been relentless in advocating for good outcomes for her clients in three clinics. In the Criminal Defense Clinic, Ellen
helped a combat veteran with PTSD get connected with veterans’ resources and avoid a mandatory jail sentence. In the Youth Advocacy Clinic, Ellen advocated on behalf of a Black high school student facing expulsion for calling school staff racist and using profanity. She demonstrated empathy and professionalism in interviewing her traumatized client and drafted a persuasive advocacy letter that led to her client’s return to school. In another disciplinary hearing, Ellen’s presentation to the school board was so compelling that the members quoted Ellen’s closing statement when announcing their decision to allow her client to return to his vocational program immediately. In the Holistic Youth Defense Clinic, Ellen’s client was denied release at a detention hearing. The youth – who had mental health needs and was in desperate need of a residential placement with services – was traumatized in detention. Ellen filed an appeal (which is uncommon for youth detention hearings) and successfully secured her client’s release on appeal, receiving private praise from the judge in chambers. Ellen prioritizes her clients and is always available to cover an unexpected hearing. In the clinic seminar, she asks probing questions about how to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the legal system and is reflective about her own biases and assumptions. She often seeks advice on how to improve her lawyering. Ellen is a zealous advocate and her work has been superlative.


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