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Every year, more than 1,000 low-income residents, small businesses, and nonprofit institutions in the District of Columbia receive free representation through the legal clinic programs at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. As the District’s only public law school, UDC-DCSL prides itself on having the strongest commitment in the country to clinical legal education by requiring intensive clinical work from every student. More than half our graduates — the highest percentage in the nation — practice in public interest, public service, and public policy positions. They work as attorneys with the public defender’s office, at the D.C. Corporation Counsel, at legal services organizations, and as judicial law clerks. The students’ commitment to public service begins in their first semester, when they meet with local organizations and choose a community service project to fulfill their mandatory 40-hour pro bono legal services requirement. Students continue to serve the District’s most vulnerable residents in their second and third year through our legal clinical programs. Through the dedication of its faculty and students, the school fulfills its mission to serve the District by providing legal services to those who could not otherwise afford assistance. Beginning in the second year, each student must take two seven-credit clinical courses by graduation, totaling 700 hours. The clinical program encompasses six approved clinics: the Community Development Law Clinic and Small Business Project; the HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic; the Housing and Consumer Clinic; the Juvenile Law Clinic; the Legislation Clinic; and the Government Accountability Clinic (though not all clinics are offered in any given year). Typically, the student-faculty ratio in clinics does not exceed 8-to-1. The Community Development Law Clinic and Small Business Project. Students represent enterprises, from small-business entrepreneurs to large tenant associations, primarily in a wide range of transactional matters. For example, during 2003, students helped a sole proprietor form a limited liability company for a lawn care service, obtained tax-exempt status for a group of citizens who provide financial and social support for children, and assisted a tenant association in acquiring a 60-unit building and establishing a cooperative housing business. Through their casework, students gain practical legal experience in business, real estate, and nonprofit tax matters while helping individuals and the community. Organized on a small-firm model to emphasize practice management skills, the clinic holds weekly “civil practice” meetings (in addition to substantive seminars) for all students to discuss division of labor on the larger cases, priorities, timing, and case strategies. The HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic. This clinic is the legal services provider in the multidisciplinary Family Ties Project, one of five national demonstration projects funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address the nation’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the Family Ties Project, the clinic provides comprehensive, holistic legal services to families affected by AIDS. Typically, the legal issue that brings the client to the clinic may be only the “tip of the iceberg,” requiring students to explore interdisciplinary solutions by working directly with hospital and medical clinic case managers. Students learn that successful lawyering means they must draw on their people skills and their compassion for others. Classroom seminars cover multiple areas of law, including health law, entitlements/benefits law, disability rights, family law, and estate and permanency planning. Seminars also focus on professional skill development, such as interviewing, counseling, fact finding, and trial advocacy skills. Students frequently work in teams to prepare wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives. They also engage in administrative advocacy to pursue disability benefits, and they represent the client in actual custody hearings and trials in D.C. Superior Court. The clinic has been a leading force in establishing standby guardianship in the city, which allows parents to arrange for the future care of their children without having to relinquish responsibility while they are still healthy. In D.C. Superior Court, student Tiffany Bowers argued the first standby guardian case to be heard following passage of the law in 2002. This summer, aggressive student representation made a world of difference for a mother afflicted with HIV and multiple physical and emotional problems. Repeatedly denied benefits, the woman sought the clinic’s assistance. During the 2003 spring semester, student Arian Noma undertook comprehensive research and analysis to present the client’s condition in a new light in the prehearing brief. In the summer, student Victor Varga successfully argued the case at the hearing. Professor Joyce Batipps, the students’ supervisor, attributed the positive outcome to the students’ zealous and effective advocacy. Juvenile Justice Law and Special Education Clinic. Over the past several years, this clinic has pioneered a nationally acclaimed approach for helping children incarcerated in the D.C. juvenile justice system. In conjunction with traditional representation in delinquency and neglect matters, clinical supervisors and law students work to identify their clients’ special educational needs and then strategize to make sure those needs are met. Working under close supervision of clinic faculty, students handle all aspects of the special education advocacy, and participate in the delinquency defense by drafting pleadings, negotiating with educational authorities, and appearing in hearings on behalf of their clients. Students who have completed sufficient credits to be court certified may appear in court while other students may appear before administrative tribunals. Professors who teach in the clinic are also involved in systemic reform efforts, and they invite their students to participate in those efforts as well. Attorneys Kim Jones and Beth Ann West, alumni of the clinic, were so inspired by their clinical experience that, after graduation, they established a foundation whose mission is to help parents become effective educational advocates for their children in the public school system. The Legislation Clinic. Lawyers seeking to effect broad changes outside of the courtroom often turn to legislative avenues for action. Because legislative work is a particularly prominent practice in the District, students have rich practice opportunities to learn how the legislative process works. This clinic trains students to be knowledgeable and effective advocates in every major phase of the process, on the national and state or local levels. In the classroom, faculty and students examine the experiences of courts with statutory construction, the various steps in the process of enacting legislation, building and researching legislative histories, and legislative drafting techniques. For their casework, students are placed in local and national legislative offices where they research, analyze, and assist in the passage of legislation. Many students have worked for congressional representatives and committees and members of the D.C. Council. Several students have worked in federal and D.C. administrative agencies, researching and analyzing issues such as hate crimes, budgeting, disability rights, and environmental matters. In the federal arena, students have prepared comments on proposed federal regulations implementing the Americans With Disabilities Act. Housing and Consumer Law Clinic. In this clinic, students learn how to be trial lawyers in administrative hearings and in court, representing individuals in evictions and investigating such issues as habitability, illegal rent increases, predatory loans, fair housing, and miscellaneous torts. Students also represent consumers against merchants in disputes involving sales and services. A primary pedagogical focus of the clinic is to teach the principles and skills of trial advocacy. Students are normally certified to appear in D.C. Superior Court and have the primary responsibility for the trial court caseload, preparing complaints, drafting interrogatories, and writing motions. In a recent semester, all students were assigned to jury trials. Some of the cases settled, but the three that went forward involved two substandard buildings with abysmal conditions occupied by low-income Latino clients. The students whose cases went to trial not only gained valuable trial experience, but also won most of their clients’ claims. Students whose cases settle before trial often have other practice opportunities, such as researching race discrimination issues, and applying for temporary restraining orders to enable clients to combat unacceptable living conditions, including lack of heat, rat infestation, and trespassers and squatters. In all the clinics, students learn through a combination of casework, seminars, and individual tutorials. They must keep comprehensive records of their work, including time sheets, activity logs, and file memorandums. By representing actual clients, students learn the substantive law, professional skills, and ethical responsibilities in real-life settings, while serving the District. Dena R. Bauman is director of career services at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.

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