Law Clinics Improve Community Life, Serve as Teaching Tool, Pt. 1

By Martin Haro

Eight law clinics are currently operating within the College of Law at FIU. There, law students are not only gaining hands-on experience in many areas of practice but also improving the lives of their fellow community members. In this first part of a two-part story, we tell you about some of the cases handled by the Consumer Bankruptcy Clinic, the Environmental Law Clinic, the Family and Children’s Advocacy Clinic and the Immigrant Children’s Justice Clinic.

When Peggy Maisel joined the faculty of the College of Law in 2003, she did so with a clear goal in mind: to establish a flagship clinical program that provides students with hands-on experience outside the classroom.

In August 2004, Maisel and former College of Law Professor Troy Elder launched the inaugural law clinic, the Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic. Currently, there are eight clinics and a ninth is being planned to work on behalf of veterans.

About 45 percent of FIU Law students work in a clinic before graduation. Through the end of the 2011-’12 year, the students had provided more than 27,000 hours of free legal services to approximately 400 individuals, groups and organizations. That is equivalent to a court-approved value of more than $2 million in free legal services, exclusive of faculty time.

“We are very much a law firm focusing on educating the next generation of lawyers through close supervision of law students as they practice for the first time and provide policy advocacy and community education throughout Miami-Dade,” said Maisel of the clinics, which primarily serve underprivileged individuals and nonprofits that must meet a certain threshold to receive services.

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