Monday, May 27, 2024

2024 CLEA Awards for Outstanding Clinical and Externship Students: Wayne State's Fatima Elzhenni, Maria Gedris, and Natalie Rosenblatt

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 Wayne State University Law School:

Outstanding Clinic Team: Fatima Elzhenni and Maria Gedris 

Fatima Elzhenni and Maria Gedris became student attorneys in the Wayne State Law School Business and Community Law Clinic in the Fall of 2023. They formed a team to represent the Perry Outreach Center. From the start, Maria and Fatima exercised client-centered lawyering, diligence and empathy. Tracey Patterson, the President of the Center, noted, “We would not be able to continue to exist without their legal help to make us an independent organization."

Located in southwest Detroit, Michigan, the Perry Outreach Center is a food pantry and offers clothing, employment counseling, music classes and computer classes to residents in the area. After the neighborhood experienced severe economic disinvestment and loss of industry, the Center became a lifeline to neglected residents.

Patterson remarked on how Maria and Fatima’s legal assistance was crucial when infrastructure challenges threatened closure. “Everyone is on board with making sure the center doesn't die," Patterson said. Someone told us about the Wayne State law clinic… and we were accepted… They helped us go over and submit articles of incorporation. They helped us create a supervisory board and an orientation program for the board. They helped us apply for the 501(c)(3). They even helped us create a backup plan - to find a fiscal sponsor - just in case we don't get the 501(c)(3). Their work was crucial, and the stakes are high. Without them, our doors would certainly be closing this July."

The students also drafted the Center’s bylaws and organized an entrepreneurship legal workshop to empower the Center’s surrounding residents

Outstanding Externship Student: Natalie Rosenblatt

As an extern, Natalie Rosenblatt excelled in numerous ways. In Wayne Law’s Holistic Defense Externship, Natalie externed at Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit Office where she built strong relationships with her clients, advocated persuasively on their behalf, and formed lasting bonds with office colleagues. Her supervisor noted that Natalie is “extremely professional and a very hard worker.  She's also excellent in her written advocacy and very on top of projects.  She's been super flexible with helping people with multiple tasks. She’s very proactive and thorough especially with legal research.”  In class, Natalie engaged thoughtfully with the material, confronted difficult issues head-on, and always made space for her classmates to share their ideas.  
Additionally, in the Public Service Externship, Natalie externed at the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, where she independently composed two briefs on complex legal issues, collaborated with other students and attorneys in the office, and further developed her oral advocacy skills. Her supervisor characterized her problem solving, judgment, and writing skills as advanced, noting that she excelled in performing legal research, and was able to work independently while also seeking guidance when appropriate.  The supervisor concluded, “Natalie is a pleasure to work with and will be an asset wherever she chooses to go. It is obvious she cares about her work.”

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