preLaw - Winter 2011 - 25
University of Maryland School of Law students, from left, Emily Siedell, Eric Kunimoto and Carlos Guevara participated in the law school's new International and Comparative Law Clinic last spring, which brought them to China, Mexico and Namibia.
PHOTO BY BRUCE BUCKLEY
repayment options), and placement (the percent of graduates who work in public service). CUNY ranks first in placement, followed by Yale, Vermont Law School, University of Oregon and American University. CUNY also ranks first in curriculum, followed by University of Maryland, Northeastern, Gonzaga and Stanford.
Clinical Education: the key to preparing for a career in public service
Sameer Ashar, associate dean for clinical programs at CUNY, said clinical work is essential more so in public interest law than any part of the practice. “Students come out of law school immediately working with people,” Ashar said. “They kind of have to hit the job running, with no formal on-the-job training.” Of CUNY’s seven clinics, the Community and Economic Development Clinic is particularly popular right now, as immigration issues continue to draw a lot of student interest. The law school requires every student participate in a clinic or
externship while in law school. “We try to transition them into practice through that experience,” Ashar said. Law is dynamic and learning law in the classroom is essential, but it needs to take a step further to see how it actually works, said Wake Forest’s Dean Morant. Clinics help do that. At the same time, these clinics work for individuals. They are learning what a traditional lawyer actually does. “A true professional lawyer is one that not only has great academic competence, but truly recognizes his/her function in society,” Morant said. For many of the law schools, strategic plans are set up connecting the law school with a variety of different communities needing assistance. Like CUNY, Rutger-Newark’s most popular clinic is community law. “Our clinicians help people with real estate closings, patents, copyright issues,” Dean Farmer said. “We offer the full range of business-related services to people who are trying to start enterprises in urban areas. The opportunity for learning is tremendous. Students get to learn so many things: contract drafting, zoning conflicts, counsel-
ing small businesses and non-profits. And it actually helps rebuilding communities in the process.” Clinical opportunities vary by school and geography — from criminal law to elder care. Boston University School of Law is coming up on 50 years of clinical education. With an impressive alumni support system, every law school panel has at least one public interest or pro bono representative on it. The goal is to help students meet people from different backgrounds and areas of the law, said Maura Kelly, assistant dean of the career development and public service for Boston University. “We truly try to match students’ interests with opportunities,” she said. “Many students are trying to figure out how to include public interest in their lives, full time or through private practice.” The law school is also open to students suggesting new clinics/pro bono work. For example, one student who did some work with the Innocence Clinic suggested a new clinic on detention issues. They found an alum who is an expert in asylum and immigration, who is now teaching on a part-time