Blog Entry 12
Whew! The fall semester has just come to a close and the students and I had a chance to reflect back on what we accomplished. Here are the stats: we conducted 11 trials before the U.S. Immigration Court, 4 interviews before the Asylum Office in Chicago, 14 interviews at Homeland Security in Detroit, prepared 42 petitions for relief, met with 128 potential clients, and wrote six appellate briefs. That is a lot of work for eight students.
And the sheer numbers do not reveal the time students spent on each case – the numbers are really just the tip of the iceberg while most of the work does unnoticed beneath the surface. For one trial, we had 8 witnesses and over two hundred exhibits, and we did four full moot sessions to get the clients ready. For one petition, we spent 28 hours interviewing our client and produced a 22-page affidavit to support her petition.
A fair question to ask is: are we crazy? Our clients do not pay us to represent them so why not take on relatively few cases and lawyer them to death? Because that’s not the real world. The Immigration Law Clinic attempts to replicate the fast-paced atmosphere of a typical law firm. Law students need that experience so they do not flounder on Day One but, instead, can handle the pressure and provide excellent service to their clients. That is what producing “Practice Ready Grads” is all about.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Immigration Law Clinic, a few moments stand out. When a witness perjured herself on the witness stand, law students had to figure out in the moment how to handle the situation ethically and legally – and they did. Law students comforted a client whose two children were being deployed to Afghanistan – they were going off to serve a country that was trying to deport her and it tore at her heart. Law students helped a client restore her dignity and self-worth after a series of abusive relationships.
I am continually amazed and impressed by the hard work, tenacity, legal skill of our law students. But I am even more impressed by their self-sacrifice and the kindness they show our clients. They are, in a Jesuit vein, truly the “men and women for others” St. Ignatius mentioned in his creation of the Society of Jesus, which is the historical touchstone of the Law School.