Legal Aid Clinic
The Legal Aid Clinic at KU Law offers students the opportunity to fine-tune their lawyering skills in a fast-paced, live-client setting by representing low-income clients under the careful guidance and thoughtful teaching of supervising attorneys. Since 1967, the Legal Aid Clinic has been working to secure “justice for and to protect the rights of the needy” in a wide range of civil and misdemeanor criminal cases. All clinic students must become licensed for supervised practice through Kansas Supreme Court Rule 719, which requires a minimum of 60 hours of coursework.
The clinic is structured around three inter-related educational components: a weekly class meeting, formal and informal supervision, and live-client representation under Kansas Rule 719. At the weekly class meeting, students might discuss and troubleshoot cases through “case rounds,” apply lawyering skills through simulations, or discuss readings about social justice, skills application or substantive law. When possible, speakers from the community and the local bar will share their insights from practice. Through supervision sessions, students work one-on-one with faculty members to reflect on performance, discuss case work, engage in critical assessment and feedback, and develop professional identity. The highlight for many clinic students, however, is the opportunity to take the lead role in representing clients — from initial interview and counseling, to court appearances and motion arguments, through settlement or trial — thereby building confidence and competence throughout the semester.
The Legal Aid Clinic faculty strives to select and assign cases that offer the greatest opportunity for impact and growth. Each semester, the faculty will focus on a social justice issue, substantive law theme or population to help focus and stimulate learning. Some recent areas of representation include:
- A criminal practice for juveniles charged with crimes in Douglas County District Court;
- A criminal practice for adults charged with crimes and municipal violations in Lawrence Municipal Court; and
- A civil practice that may include divorce, paternity, protection from abuse, consumer law, and other matters.
For more information about enrolling in the Legal Aid Clinic, please contact the clinic faculty as indicated at right, or stop by 105 Green Hall.
Gaining experience, building trust: Tristan Tafolla, L'10
Tristan Tafolla had already completed the Criminal Prosecution Clinic, but he enrolled in the Legal Aid Clinic to “see both sides of the coin.” He noticed that he really built connections with clients while defending their interests. Tafolla, L’10, advocated for a mother of two who faced up to 90 days in jail for repeat offenses of driving with a suspended license. “It was pretty clear-cut; she did it,” Tafolla said. “It was a matter of how the sentence should be carried out.” After explaining the situation – single mom, recent bad divorce, no money for auto insurance – Tafolla negotiated a deal in which his client spent just two days in jail, the statutory minimum, and served the rest of her time on house arrest. “There are some cases that really tug at the heart strings,” he said, “especially when children are involved.”
Eligible legal aid interns must satisfy Supreme Court Rule 719, which requires that they have completed four semesters of course work (60 hours) and be in good academic standing. Professional Responsibility is a prerequisite, and Trial Advocacy is a pre- or co-requisite. The clinic requires a two-semester commitment: either summer-fall (9 hours total) or fall-spring (8 hours total).
Application deadlines will be announced in early 2015. Please contact Professor DeRousse if you would like to discuss enrollment.
Applications are available below and in the Legal Aid office, 105 Green Hall.