The Clinical Law Program

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[Alan Kirtley]
Alan Kirtley

The Clinical Law Program enhances the professional training of law students at the UW while it serves the community, providing representation for those unable to access legal services. "In the 1996-97 academic year, over seven faculty will teach and supervise the practice of 106 law students delivering free legal services to hundreds of legally indigent persons throughout the State of Washington," notes Alan Kirtley, Director of Clinics of the UW School of Law.

Kirtley's pioneering work to establish and build up the Clinical Law Program has placed the UW School of Law at the forefront of clinical legal education nationally. At the same time, clinical training has turned out better legal professionals. "A clinical experience instills in our students the sense that pro bono practice activities are an integral part of a lawyer's career," he notes.

Kirtley originally was appointed to the UW faculty in 1984 on a one-year contract to establish a Criminal Law Clinic (CLC) for the law school. Before joining the UW, Kirtley practiced with a Michigan private law firm, taught and co-directed a general clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, and founded the clinical law program at what was then the University of Puget Sound School of Law. What started out as a one-year appointment at the UW was just the beginning, however; Kirtley has continued to teach and to initiate new clinical experiences through the present time.

In order to fund the Criminal Law Clinic, Kirtley obtained a grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and worked out a cooperative arrangement for in- kind support with the Seattle-King County Public Defender Association. Jacqueline McMurtrie replaced Kirtley in the Criminal Clinic in 1989 as the overall program grew. Today, students in the CLC receive instruction in criminal law and procedure and advocacy training, and they represent persons accused of crimes in Seattle Municipal Court. Students handle cases from initial client interview through jury trial, under rigorous faculty supervision.

The Family and Unemployment Law Clinic (FULC) was initiated by Kirtley when the law school received a second major grant from the DOE in 1989. McMurtrie was hired under that grant, as was Deborah Maranville, who joined Kirtley in the new FULC enterprise -- the school's first on-site clinic. Students provide family law services via this program to two main types of clients: victims of domestic violence and child abuse. Students also represent persons who have been denied unemployment compensation.

After developing an interest in mediation and teaching a classroom course on the subject, in 1991 Kirtley obtained a third DOE grant to establish a Mediation Clinic. Under Julia Gold, students are trained as mediators and then handle small claims and consumer and community disputes.

In 1993, the Law School established an Affordable Housing Development Clinic (AHDC), which teaches transactional skills, and an off-site Immigration Clinic, handling political asylum and deportation cases. AHDC is taught by Lori Salzarulo and Janet Stearns, who is on leave during 1997 to study housing policy in South America. Ann Benson and Joan Fitzpatrick, with the help of McMurtrie, are the faculty responsible for the Immigration Clinic.

In 1994, Evergreen Legal Services (now Northwest Justice Project) approached the law school with a proposal to jointly establish a Refugee Advocacy Project under the Legal Services Corporation Law School Clinical Grant Program. A one-year grant launched that project under the direction of Gillian Dutton. Students in the Refugee Clinic help remove legal barriers so that refugees and immigrants may obtain training and social services needed to transition into the mainstream of American society.

Finally, in 1996, Washington State's Department of Social and Health Services began funding a new interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic (CAC). Michele Jones-Garling, who joined FULC as its family law specialist in 1993, created the CAC to address the need for cross training of allied professionals in the area of child abuse and neglect. Law students are trained and work with faculty from the Schools of Medicine, Social Work and Law in providing legal representation to parents and children. With the creation of the CAC, the FULC narrowed its focus to just unemployment compensation cases.

The UW law schools clinical program has grown significantly since its beginnings in the middle 1980's. What started as a single clinic and one clinical faculty member has grown to a total of seven separate clinics as of 1996-97. Although grants sparked the development of these clinics, over time the law school has assumed financial responsibility for the program. Only the newest clinic, the CAC, continues to receive grant funds. While the UW was once a backwater of clinical legal education, it now stands among the best programs in the country.

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