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LEARNING BY DOING LAW CLINICS

Hands on,
helping others

An infant with several older siblings born to a mother with heroin addiction. A 19-year-old client locked out of the house and asking for assistance with the transition to independence. An eight-year-old child whose grandparents are requesting visits while the child’s father is in prison.

These are a few of the recent cases handled by Loyola University Chicago’s Civitas ChildLaw Clinic. Like Loyola’s numerous other clinics and practica, the childlaw clinic provides students with valuable practical training serving real clients under the supervision of clinical faculty members.

Clinics have long been a popular choice with Loyola law students. The school’s first clinic, the Community Law Center, was founded in the early 1980s, and clinic offerings have grown as Loyola heightened its prominence in child law, health law, and other specialty areas. Since the law school significantly revised its curriculum several years ago to require substantial experiential learning credits, more students than ever are enrolling in clinics—and the clinics are continually creating new practica, programs, and initiatives to meet changing community needs.

As a student clinician I've gained invaluable lawyering skills—from filing motions to stepping up on my first cases—all under the supervision of a faculty experts in my field."
— JAMES NAUGHTON, CHILDLAW CLINIC STUDENT

With the legal employment market increasingly demanding practical skills of its new hires, Loyola’s clinics serve a key role in helping new graduates hit the ground running in their first jobs. Employers “always point to Loyola’s breadth of clinical experience as a wonderful training ground for their attorneys,” says Michael Kaufman, dean of the School of Law.

“Students who have worked in a Loyola clinic understand what it means to deal with an actual—not hypothetical—legal situation. They understand that real problems are complex, nuanced, and most effectively approached from a multidimensional perspective,” Kaufman adds. So, besides educating students in the technical aspects of practice, Loyola clinics also focus on interpersonal and service skills like interviewing, problem solving, project management, and active listening, “all of which are indispensable to solving complex human problems,” Kaufman says.

6

number of clinics

300+

Each year, more than 300 students participate in a live clinic or externship

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new practica: veterans and immigration

Because they overwhelmingly focus on underserved populations, Loyola law clinics directly address the school’s Jesuit focus on care for the community’s most vulnerable. “Clinical education gives our students outstanding practice in using their talents and compassion in the service of others who couldn’t otherwise afford legal counsel,” says Kaufman.

It’s an experience that changes many students’ outlooks on the law as a tool for positive social change. “Alumni often tell us they look back on their Loyola law education and vividly remember their clinic experience as truly transformative,” Kaufman continues.

Classroom learning

In addition to direct client service and representation, Loyola’s clinics include a seminar component that complements and strengthens the hands-on work. The childlaw clinic’s weekly seminar, for example, mixes practice in skills like interviewing children, counseling clients, and making oral arguments with discussions of upcoming case issues and exploration of ethics-related issues such as substituted judgment, sibling conflict, client capacity, and implicit bias.

This combination of classroom and client experience gives students experience specific to the clinic’s specialty area as well as general lawyering skills that will translate to any area of the law.

Says 3L James Naughton, a student enrolled in the childlaw clinic this spring, "As a student clinician I’ve gained invaluable lawyering skills—from filing motions to stepping up on my first cases—all under the supervision of a faculty experts in my field.”

With focuses ranging from federal tax law and business law to policymaking and health care, Loyola’s clinics span a large array of practice areas. “Loyola was already pioneering in developing litigation clinics, but we were way ahead of our time in developing a transactional law clinic, the Business Law Clinic,” Kaufman says.

As a result of their clinic experience, many students find themselves drawn to areas of the law they might not have previously considered.

“Many students come into law school thinking they’d like to be litigators, for example, but change their career plans after helping clients start a new business, draft an agreement, or prepare a trademark application," says Shelley Dunck, codirector of the Business Law Clinic. “Clinical education serves so many positive purposes, and one of them is giving students a taste of the different ways they can use their law education, skills, and talents to help others.”

Accomplishments

Here are a few of the other Loyola law clinics’ recent accomplishments:

  • ADDRESSING VETERANS’ COMPLEX CHALLENGES —The Community Law Center now offers a Veterans’ Practicum that assists with family law-related matters, minor and adult guardianships, housing issues, simple wills, and powers of attorney.
  • EXPANDING OUTREACH WITH TAX INFO —The Federal Tax Law Clinic created educational outreach brochures in English and Spanish to inform underrepresented community members about federal income tax matters like tax exceptions, earned income credit, child tax credit, and resident and nonresident alien status.
  • HELPING UNDOCUMENTED PARENTS —The Legislation and Policy Clinic drafted an online “Guide for Parents in Illinois Who Are Undocumented—Planning for your Children in Case of Detention or Deportation.” 
  • LAUNCHING NONPROFIT CHANGEMAKERS —The Business Law Clinic serves startup for-profit businesses as well as nonprofit organizations. Recent nonprofit clients include Penny Up, an economically integrated approach to creating financial literacy, job readiness, and entrepreneurship resources for youth in disenfranchised communities, and ACBMath, which introduces children to math strategies that help them analyze and solve real-world problems.
  • TAKING ON HEALTH-HARMING LEGAL ISSUES — Recent cases at the Health Justice Project (HJP) Clinic include helping a man newly diagnosed with schizophrenia apply for Social Security disability benefits, assisting several families in advocating for repairs to their hazardous apartments, and filing for a young woman’s guardianship of her siblings after their mother passed away.