On the 1L Clinic Experience

February 22, 2008

C.P., 1L

Who would have thought I would become a lawyer this fast? After just one semester of law school, I am already ‘practicing law’ and ‘meeting with clients’ for cases. How I am doing this you might ask? The answer is simple: the YLS Legal Services Organization, which operates as the law school’s very own public interest law firm. While I still do not have all the skills to be a lawyer, with the clinic I am allowed to expand on my legal knowledge, serving as a de facto attorney and representing real clients. The law school provides me the opportunity to do this under the auspices of a supervising attorney. As other bloggers have mentioned, the legal clinics at Yale are open to first year students – something that is unique to YLS because of a loophole in Connecticut law. I, like many other 1Ls, decided to take advantage of the fact that Connecticut allows first years to go to court, speak before a judge and represent real clients.

I chose to begin my clinical career with the Legal Services for Immigrant Communities clinic. The name of the clinic is pretty self explanatory for the type of work we do, as we help immigrants gain residency status and fight against violations aimed at immigrants. After only two weeks, it is apparent how much experience and confidence I am going to gain throughout the semester. I enrolled in the clinic because it is largely client-oriented (one of many at Yale). Once a week, students in the clinic go to a community organization to provide outreach services to the immigrant communities in Fair Haven. At the outreach sessions we conduct client interviews and later collectively determine whether we can take particular cases. Last night was my first outreach session. Any inhibitions I might have had were soon set aside as I began talking with the clients and getting acquainted with their various legal problems. Without the clinic’s services, the clients that come to this organization would likely have had no other meaningful way to access the law or to procure remedies that might be available to them.

Although I am still learning, I will do my best to achieve everything possible within the legal scope for our clients. The motivation behind my clinical work is qualitatively different from that which drives my classroom focused academic endeavors. For any student who appreciates tangible outcomes, real impact and service to the community, clinics are the ideal counterweight to academic coursework. I highly recommend them!