November 27, 2011
Wow, what a crazy month! November has been very hectic, but there have been a lot of exciting things going on at the law school!
I serve as a Presidential Ambassador for the University, which gives me the opportunity to represent the students at alumni events. (The interesting part is that I am an alumna of the University, even though I’m also a current student…) The Alumni Reunion Weekend was the last weekend in October, and I had the opportunity to attend an alumni dinner at the Westin Book Cadillac: it was a really nice event, and I had the opportunity to meet many alumni.
The next weekend was a big one for the law school: the long-awaited law school Rededication event. With all of the new updates to the building recently, the Rededication was an opportunity to show off the new renovations, and a chance to thank all of those who were involved in the process: physically, financially, and logistically. Students of the Dean’s Honor Society were invited, and a couple of us gave tours to our guests. As a student, it has been so exciting to see the whole construction process come together, and it was a lot of fun being able to take guests on tours and show how far our building has come. (Someone was keeping a Construction Blog over the summer, which featured before, during, and after pictures. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I would strongly encourage you to do so!)
With the renovations to the building also comes new marketing pictures. For a week at the beginning of November, we shared our school with the photography team who snapped pictures of students in class and throughout the building. It’s pretty cool: the images that you see in the admissions materials and on the website feature real UDM Law students. I can’t wait until I get to see the familiar faces of my classmates!
Of course, I have also been juggling my classes with all of these events. One class that I don’t think I have talked about nearly enough is my clinic. I’m enrolled in the Criminal Trial Clinic this semester, and I love it. When we began the semester, we got to choose one of four district courts throughout metro Detroit. I had the opportunity to work in the Plymouth court, which serves Plymouth, Canton, and Northville. Each court was assigned a certain four-hour block for each week, and during that time we would go to court and take on real cases.
The way my court worked, cases would be assigned to one of two court-appointed attorneys, and us students (there are four of us in my court this semester) would be assigned files, and have the opportunity to interview clients, discuss their options with them, and then help them decide whether to pursue a plea offer or set the case for trial. If they wanted a plea, we were responsible for taking the case to the city prosecutor and bargaining with them for it. Either way, we were then responsible for going into court and putting it on the record in front of the judge. Clients who choose to plead guilty get a sentencing recommendation from the probation department, and then we represent them during sentencing, and make sure that the sentence they receive is fair, considering all of their life circumstances.
Although most of our cases are resolved during “pretrial” proceedings, with many defendants choosing to take a plea, if we have cases that are set for trial, we are allowed to conduct the trial. One of my cases was set for a bench trial (a trial in front of a judge instead of a jury) this past Wednesday: a woman charged with driving on a suspended license. I had to prepare an opening statement, direct examination questions for my witness, cross-examination questions for the prosecutor’s witness, and a closing argument. The case ended up getting dismissed the day of trial because the state didn’t have a necessary document, but it was still a great opportunity for me to have to think through all of the different elements of the case, and prepare for the different aspects of trial.
My clinic has probably been the most rewarding part of my law school experience. UDM students are required to take at least one clinic before graduation, and I can see why: my clinic has just been a tremendous opportunity to do some good, and get some real-world experience while still under the supervision of a professor.