By Steve Linders Everyone knows that Mitchell’s nationally renowned clinical program is good for students. They get to work with real clients. They see real-world applications of classroom theories and concepts. They gain invaluable practical experience. But not everyone knows that the clinical program also has a powerful impact on local communities. The clinics help start small businesses, protect endangered native languages, and help people rebuild their lives after being released from prison. What’s more, the work of students in the clinical program is making an impact around the world—from St. Paul’s University Avenue to Thailand and beyond.
Portrait photos by Sarah Whiting
Working on University Avenue
Two months after opening the Glamour with New York hair salon on University Avenue, Candice Wade walked into the University Avenue Business Association's (UABA) offices and asked for help. Not for now, but for some time in 2011. That’s when construction is slated to begin on the Central Corridor light rail transit line, which will run along an 11-mile stretch of the avenue between the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The busy thoroughfare is home to more than 2,000 small businesses—many of which could lose customers as a result of the construction. “On-street parking is important,” says Wade, whose salon doesn’t have a parking lot. “If the construction tears up the street and there’s no place for my clients to park, it could hurt. I’m just trying to get my business off the ground; it would be a shame if we didn’t make it because of construction.” Finances are tight for Wade, so when she heard about the free resources available through UABA,
she was quick to make the threeblock walk down the street to ask for help. And help is exactly what she received, thanks in large part to Eddy Kaiser ’09, who spent the better part of the last semester setting up a Legal Service Center for small businesses as part of his work with Mitchell’s Community Development Clinic. The center is part of a UABA effort to help small-business owners survive the light rail line construction phase. The issue is close to Kaiser’s heart— he lives in St. Paul and understands how important University Avenue is to the city’s quality of life. “University Avenue is unique,” he says. “Its businesses are so diverse that customers drive in from surrounding suburbs, bringing an important economic, cultural, and social energy to the city. My goal is to ensure that changing the way people get along University Avenue doesn’t change which businesses are on the avenue.” To create the center, Kaiser relied on skills and knowledge he gained in Mitchell’s classrooms, and worked closely with Mitchell Professor Diane Dube and UABA board member Larry Peterson ’75. “Every time I thought I had a road map for how to pull this thing together, I found another issue that business owners needed to be aware of,” says Kaiser. “It was like peeling back the layers of an onion.” In the end, he assembled information on business/construction mitigation rights, tax/property rights, landlord/tenants rights, leases, and sales. And he was able to find a group of attorneys—many with offices along University Avenue— who will work with the business owners on a pro bono basis or offer alternative fee options. His work is important, says UABA Executive Director Linda Winsor, because most of the businesses lack the resources to secure their own
legal representation. “Without Eddy and without the work of Diane Dube and everyone else at the Community Development Clinic, a lot of these small businesses might not even be thinking about protecting their legal rights, much less having access to such well-organized information or actual attorneys. “These businesses are the backbone of this community,” she adds. “If they go away, so do thousands of jobs and the vitality of this neighborhood. Eddy worked hard on behalf of these businesses, their employees, and their customers. I think he’s benefited from the experience, too, through the contacts he’s made and the experience he’s gained.” Keoni Nguyen recently heard about the Legal Service Center when a group of Mitchell students organized by first-year student Adina Floria stopped by his shop to let him know about UABA. He runs SugaRush Donuts in the 700 block of the avenue and says he plans to use the services. “It’s too soon to tell whether or not the light rail will be good or bad for us,” says Nguyen. “Right now we’re focused on running the business, but at some point we’ll need to start thinking about surviving the construction. We want to be here when it’s over.” Eddy Kaiser wants them to be there, too.
Real experience, real impact
Third-year student Christian Girtz is working with one client as part of his duties with Mitchell’s Intellectual Property Law Clinic, but his work has the potential to improve the lives of countless children across the country. Girtz’s client is DesignWise Medical, a 15-month-old nonprofit that’s focused on developing medical devices for children. “Typically, continued on next page
Published on Apr 8, 2010
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