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University of Iowa School of Law Offers Unique Clinical Program [by Anayat Durrani] The University of Iowa offers a clinical program to help law students put their legal training to good use. The program includes everything from helping criminal defendants charged with serious and aggravated misdemeanors to protecting the rights of disabled workers, representing survivors of domestic violence to promoting international human rights.

Unlike some law schools, which may offer

are eligible to sign up for the lottery. She

financial hardship or to contest questionable

one or two clinical programs, Iowa fea-

confirmed that there are about 45 students

practices of creditors.

tures at least eight different ways in which

in all the clinical programs each of the three

students can learn first-hand how to be an


Iowa officials cite one case in which a local bank had arranged a bogus sale of a

effective advocate in the school’s “law firm, the legal clinic.” According to Professor John

Professor Schwartz stated that “popular

roommate’s automobile to a client and also

Whiston, a faculty member for the Clinical

practice areas vary from semester to se-

persuaded her to assume the roommate’s

Program who oversees the criminal defense

mester.” Depending upon student interest,

liability on a credit card. When the room-

and civil rights litigation practice areas, “All

hot areas constantly change. This semester

mate who still had title to the car returned,

clinics are hands-on. Our clinic operates

there are still a variety of popular areas. Pro-

the bank left the client in the lurch without

on a law firm model, that is, there are not

fessor Whiston reported, “The in-house clinic

transportation and also brought an $18,000

separate clinics for domestic violence or

is the most popular and the areas of practice

collection action against her. With the assis-

bankruptcy, etc. Instead, a student would be

most commonly requested are immigration,

tance from the students in the clinic, officials

working in several areas for several faculty

criminal defense and assistive technology.”

say, the client escaped liability on both debts.

hours of credit for a semester, a significant

Students benefit from the level of respon-

Those more interested in trying out their

amount, which reflects the time commitment

sibility and experience they gain. Professor

courtroom skills can gravitate toward the

and level of participation required.

Schwartz states that students work on both

criminal defense specialty. There, students

supervisors.” In addition, students receive 9

complex and simple cases, and can work in

help defendants charged with such seri-

Each semester, faculty members super-

one or more working group if they choose to

ous and aggravated misdemeanors such

vise about 35 students. The program areas

get a broader exposure to different types of

as operating while intoxicated, possession

include Consumer Rights, Criminal Defense,

legal work. “Students have a lot of autono-

of controlled substances, and theft and as-

Domestic Violence, Disability Rights, Human

my,” she said.

sault. In one case, officials note, a client was charged with third degree theft, which caries

Rights, Immigration, Non-Profit OrganizaIt is not uncommon for them to appear in

a sentence of two years. Under the supervi-

state and federal appeals courts, states

sion of a professor, the students conducted a

The clinc at the law school is very popular. As

Professor Schwartz. “They do trials on their

suppression hearing and a two-day jury trial

Professor Whiston, stated, “Each semester

own, they participate in every aspect of rep-

with expert medical testimony. Although the

we have room for approximately 25 students

resentation, with supervision from full-time

trial ended in a hung jury, officials say, the

in the in-house clinic and 10 in various

members of the faculty.

tions and Externships.

students succeeded in having the retrial proceedings dismissed on speedy trial grounds.

externships. The clinic is usually oversubscribed and so students are chosen by a

In the consumer rights area students repre-

lottery mechanism.”

sent clients on a variety of issues, including

The criminal defense area affords students a

helping them seek bankruptcy relief, and

high level of responsibility, usually reserved

Professor Barbara Schwartz, who oversees

enforcing the protections of federal and

for junior associates. “Students handling

the immigration and criminal defense work-

state consumer credit legislation. Officials

criminal defense cases will interview and

ing groups noted that there is a full clinical

say the students help individuals who would

counsel clients, file pleadings, represent

program in the summer, so students have

not otherwise have counsel recover from the

defendants at suppression hearings, trials,

at least four semesters during which they

financial disruption caused by unexpected

and sentencing. In my prison cases, students


continued on back

1. 800. 973.1177


have met with clients at various prisons,

offers a program in which students help

written briefs, presented evidence, tried

survivors of domestic violence gain orders

cases and argued cases orally to the Iowa

of protection from the courts and contempt

Supreme Court and the United States Eighth

sanctions against those who violate such

Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Professor


Whiston. Often, because of the urgency of the situOne of Iowa’s most noted practice areas

ations, the students have to work quickly

is disability rights. There, students help

to interview clients and witnesses, obtain

disabled individuals secure equipment

evidence, and prepare for court appearances,

needed for school, work or at home. The

officials say. The cases are often trying and

students also work with community groups to

eye-opening for students. Officials note

improve the lives of persons with disabilities.

that students have assisted clients whose

The clinic has been involved in successful

abusers have burned all their clothing, or

campaigns to enact assistive technology con-

displayed intimate photographs of them in

sumer protection laws and small business

public places.

tax credits, to make Iowa City’s park trails and facilities accessible to the disabled, and

In the spring of 2001, the school initiated

to have Iowa City fund, build and sell a single

a new program in which students repre-

family home that showcases universal design

sent non-profit organizations. Thus far, the


students have advised 17 nonprofit clients, doing everything from drafting articles of in-

The program was recently bolstered by a

corporation and bylaws to creating nonprofit

$1.25 million gift from Stanley and Gail Rich-

corporations under Iowa law. Students often

ards, whose oldest son, Scott, was diagnosed

attend board meetings of their clients and

as developmentally challenged in 1963. Mr.

advise them on general business matters.

Richards, an alumnus of Iowa College of Law, is a consultant to and former general

“Students feel doubly rewarded because they

counsel and president of General Growth

are learning good transactional legal skills


and they are working with members of the local community to help them accomplish

“Scott is fortunate to have worked the past

their dreams for a better world,” according

17 years for the same employer and to be

to a university statement.

able to live independently,” Mrs. Richards said in a statement. “Peter Blanck, the dis-

In recent years, immigration issues have

ability center’s director is a great advocate

reared to the forefront of Iowa’s clinics.

for Iowans and others living with disabilities.

Students work on issues of asylum, removal

We want to support the center in enabling

defense and family-based immigration, as

adults to be gainfully employed in workplac-

well as in securing protection for foreign na-

es where their strengths and limitations are

tionals from human rights violations in their


home countries. The clinic has represented about 200 hundred clients, officials note, in-

The funding will be used to expand the cen-

cluding those from Ethiopia, the Democratic

ter’s programs and promote awareness of

Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, the Congo

the rights and interests of disabled persons.

Republic, Senegal, Somalia, Angola, Sudan and Viet Nam. Of the cases that have been

For those able to take on the emotionally

completed, officials say, every client has

wrenching cases of domestic violence, Iowa

been granted relief.


University of Iowa School of Law Offers Unique Clinical Program  

University of Iowa School of Law Offers Unique Clinical Program. John Whiston is a clinical professor of Law.

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