A New Resource for a New Age

The College of Law Broadway Building
The College of Law Broadway Building

By Ray Willhoft ’00

With the addition of the new College of Law Broadway Building, Loyola has reaffirmed its commitment to experiential legal education.

The formula used to be simple—attend law school, graduate, pass the Bar, and find a good job that would train you for your legal career. However, for new law graduates these days, things are more complicated. With entry-level legal positions becoming increasingly competitive and scarce, new law graduates, often in substantial debt, are finding themselves with fewer options for employment and more competition. The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law is addressing this issue head on with its initiatives for experiential legal education, so that its graduates are practice-ready.

The addition of the new College of Law Broadway Building, which is more than just an eye-catching marvel, epitomizes the mission of the college—one that is focused on both educating and training the lawyers of tomorrow. The college also understands the importance of training students to be better lawyers from a service-oriented standpoint as well as a practical one.

The offices housed within the new building—the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, the Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning, and the Career Development and Law Practice Center—enable students to gain practical legal knowledge and hands-on experience, as well as the skills and networking resources they will need for their legal careers.

The Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice

Because clinical legal education is fundamental to the education of lawyers, the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice (formerly the Loyola Law Clinic) was established with a generous gift from alumnus Stuart H. Smith, J.D. ’86, and provides students with opportunities to learn best practices under the guidance of clinical legal educators who are experts in their practice areas. The fully functioning legal clinic allows third-year law students to represent indigent clients under the supervision of experienced, full-time attorney professors. This is done in compliance with the student practitioner rule as described by the Louisiana Supreme Court. By participating in the clinic, student practitioners experience firsthand what representing clients is about, and they also have an opportunity to further the Jesuit ideals of scholarship and service at Loyola by providing legal representation to the needy.

“The clinic embodies the Loyola mission of excellence in education and social justice to the community,” says William P. Quigley, J.D. ’77, Janet Mary Riley Distinguished Professor and director of the clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center. “Our students are learning how to become good lawyers by representing the people whose lives embody problems the law is set up to address.”

The clinic is designed to complement and build upon the first two years of traditional legal education. One of the ideas behind the clinic is that students learn most effectively by participating in their own education. Clinic students engage in a wide variety of lawyering, including: interviewing, counseling, researching, drafting pleadings and appellate briefs, negotiating, mediating, arguing before judges and juries, and appearing in court to examine and cross-examine witnesses. Areas of practice include: children’s rights, community justice, criminal defense, family law, immigration, prosecution, street law, technology and litigation, and workplace justice. A clinical externship is also offered, with students working for the Louisiana Supreme Court, Orleans Parish Civil and Criminal District Courts, and U.S. Dept. of Justice Immigration Court, among others.

“Law firms are expecting law graduates to be trained and practice-ready,” says Quigley. “Dean López is implementing a school-wide focus on experience-based learning, and the clinic continues to provide students not only with practical training, but with a commitment to social justice as well.”
With the new building, the clinic now has the space it needs to truly fulfill its mission.

“The clinic is bigger than it has ever been with nine sections and 90 students, handling hundreds of cases at any given time,” notes Quigley. “The new building has provided us with ample rooms for meeting with clients, as well as a place for the community to meet.”

The Gillis Long Poverty Law Center

The Gillis W. Long Poverty Law Center was established in 1985 at the College of Law by an act of the United States Congress and named for the late Gillis W. Long, a prominent Louisiana attorney who, throughout his life, was committed to excellence in legal services. His career exemplified service to the needs of the disadvantaged. The mission of the center is to promote legal research and education relevant to the problems of poor people and give assistance to attorneys who provide legal services to those unable to afford representation. The center offers several educational and service programs to achieve said mission.

The Summer Internship Program provides opportunities for first- and second-year students to work as interns in Legal Services Offices in Louisiana. Students can also return to their home states for the summer to participate in legal services communities. Stipends for the summer internships are provided to students by the center for the required 10-week program, but the experience they receive is invaluable.

“Students have the opportunity to get first-hand, practical experiences outside of the classroom,” says Barbara Wilson, associate director of the center. “We try to help them financially so they can have those experiences.”

From 1991 – 2011, 493 students have been placed in internships, and the center has paid $1,673,900 in stipends for summer work.
All College of Law students must meet a pro bono requirement to graduate. One of the ways students do that is to complete 50 hours of pro bono work over the course of their law school careers. The center’s Student Pro Bono Program helps students satisfy that requirement by placing them at approved sites where they also are able to gain practical experience. Students conduct client interviews, provide legal research and writing, and, in some cases, represent clients before the courts, where it is permitted by law.

Since many Loyola law graduates devote their careers to public service work as advocates for traditionally underserved communities, but are often burdened by law school debt, the center’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) has tried to address this problem and remains committed to furthering its goal of providing quality legal assistance to communities throughout the country. Financial assistance is available for Loyola graduates who provide services to the poor by providing grants to reduce loan payments. LRAP is also available for Loyola graduates who work full time as attorneys in low-paying government or nonprofit jobs throughout the U.S. From 1991 – 2011, $1,786,488 in tax-free student loan payments has been made, helping hundreds of graduates continue their public service careers.

The center’s work also has an impact on the local community. Each year, nationally recognized professionals working in the field of public interest and poverty law are invited to the college to address contemporary issues concerning poverty-related and human rights issues. This spring, Professor Jules Lobel, the Bessie McKee Wathour Endowed Chair at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, was the distinguished speaker. Lobel’s lecture was titled “Success Without Victory: Radical Litigation in an Era of Conservative Courts.”

In addition, prior to the lecture, the center annually presents public service awards to members of Loyola’s alumni, staff, and students for their outstanding service to the community. The 2012 recipients were: alumni Matthew Livaccari, J.D. ’09, Charles Long, J.D. ’93, Gavin Rush, J.D. ’11, the Hon. Paul Sens, J.D. ’81, and Barbara Siefken, J.D. ’06; law student Maria Dugas; and Kathleen Breaux, assistant to the associate dean for student affairs in the College of Law.

With the new building, future plans for the center include increasing the number of programs and initiatives it offers, including holding forums for the local community when new laws are passed.

The Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning

The Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning (formerly known as the Skills Program), under new director Christine E. Cerniglia ’98, J.D. ’03, focuses on the practical skills students need to be successful legal practitioners after graduation. Building on the theoretical practice of law taught by faculty in the classroom, the courses consist of one to five class meetings, and focus on four categories—factual investigation and counseling, trial practice, effective communication and negotiation, and administrative boards and law office management—as well as electives.

“My goal is to follow the apprenticeship model and infuse the current academic curriculum with the practical skills our students need to become practice-ready,” says Cerniglia. “There is still planning to be done, but I think Loyola will be at the forefront of the practice model.”

And for the office, continuing to build relationships with the legal community is vital since practicing attorneys and judges teach the courses, which are designed to present students with an experienced legal worldview.

“I plan to continue reaching out to the legal community, especially our alumni, about their needs and ideas for the office,” says Cerniglia. “The relationships among students, faculty, staff, and alumni are crucial to our success.”

Career Development and Law Practice Center

Working closely with the Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning, the Career Development and Law Practice Center (formerly known as Law Career Services), under new director Monique M. Garsaud ’86, J.D. ’97, is the final piece of law students’ education at Loyola. The center’s mission is to work side by side with the students and alumni to articulate their career goals and to develop an organized plan for reaching such goals.

“Job searching in this market is challenging for many of our students and alumni. In the center, we seek to develop a working partnership with each student that necessitates effort on part of the student and the center. We are here to provide the support and resources to our students and alumni to develop a career, but it is also crucial that they take an active role in developing their career paths,” says Garsaud. “Although Louisiana is a civil law state, the college educates many out-of-state students. Our goal is to be inclusive, and to assist both civil and common law students.”

As with the Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning, cultivating relationships with legal employers, alumni, and other members of the legal community is crucial.

“I hope to bring in more alumni, as their time permits, as part of an outreach program to provide resources to our students,” notes Garsaud.

Deans’ Vision

While the late Brian Bromberger, former dean, was instrumental in the purchase and renovation of the new College of Law Broadway Building, Dean María Pabón López has taken charge of fully utilizing it and the offices it houses for her vision of educating law students.

“It is imperative in the ever-changing and competitive world of law that students gain practical knowledge and hands-on legal experience so that they have a closer understanding of their clients and the issues affecting them,” she says. “The need for the College of Law to be more responsible for the educational growth and outcome of law students at Loyola has never been more essential.”

Once again, Dean López is demonstrating that the college is indeed in good hands, and faculty, students, alumni, staff, and the community at large will all benefit as a result.

View the complete spring 2012 issue of Loyola Lawyer. 

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