The Children and Youth Law Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law provides participants with an opportunity to step outside the classroom and tackle actual cases involving current and former foster students.
The clinic brings together second- and third-year law students and licensed lawyers to discuss strategies for upcoming cases involving dependency, health care and other civil matters. The hands-on experience is an important step in preparing them for their careers in the legal profession.
“We operate as a law firm,” said intern Melissa Rossman. “We bounced ideas to each other, we’ll get feedback about what arguments we use, and I think it really develops your lawyering skills.”
Established in 1995, the program was one the first of 10 clinics created in the School of Law to give its students front line exposure to legal issues facing needy and under-represented Miami residents.
“Students do not learn just about the law; students learn how to use the law to represent a real client,” said law professor Bernard Perlmutter, co-director of the clinic. “They learn independent judgment as lawyers that you don’t learn in a traditional class.”
This program annually accepts about 24 students through a competitive selection process. They are required to spend 10 to 12 hours per week on clinic-related work, as well as attend a once-a-week case supervision meeting that Rossman says makes it feel like working for a law firm. There’s also a clinic class that meets twice a week.
“Regardless of what field of law you’re interested in, you gain valuable experience and you do work that helps the community, which is very rewarding.” said intern Scott Gold.
Perlmutter agrees that community service is an important part of practicing law.
“To serve the community is a really big part of being a real lawyer,” he said.