Written by Christy M. Caves and published by the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Vol. 84, No. 23, September 14, 2013
The University of Tulsa College of Law students proudly serve their school, their community and their profession. In support of the college’s belief in instilling a life-long commitment to public service, we have been working on new projects allowing our law students new opportunities to assist the underserved and underrepresented in our community.
On June 15, TU Law students, alumni and staff teamed up to provide critical legal assistance at a free immigration law clinic held at the Boesche Legal Clinic. The clinic was organized to provide assistance to individuals applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program announced last summer by the Department of Homeland Security. The DACA program allows undocumented young adults to request deferred action on their immigration status for a period of two years, subject to renewal. The clinic volunteers, who included law students enrolled in a summer immigration law course taught by Professor Elizabeth McCormick, participated in a daylong DACA training on June 14 organized by Ms. McCormick and Laura Bachman, staff attorney with the legal clinic’s Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network and adjunct faculty member at TU Law.
TU Law also recently founded a student-led public interest board, responsible for carrying out the college’s mission to promote public service within our legal community. Six students were selected to service on the executive council from a group of extremely qualified applicants. Its first project on the horizon for this school year includes a required public service day during orientation for all first-year law students at the Community Food Bank of Oklahoma and Catholic Charities of Tulsa. From the outset, we stress that service to the community is at the core of the legal profession, and these first steps into the legal profession are the perfect way to emphasize that and make a real difference in people’s lives. Additional new projects include supporting Legal Aid’s LiveHelp project, Tulsa Lawyers for Children, the Courthouse Assistance Program, Lawyers for Hunger and the Tulsa Area Urban Debate League, among other ventures.
In January 2014, the TU College of Law will open the Lobeck Taylor Family Advocacy Clinic. In the new clinic, students will learn essential skills by representing clients, particularly at-risk families, in civil law matters. The clinic will work closely with existing social and legal service providers in the Tulsa community. Cases may involve legal issues related to domestic violence, housing, public benefits, consumer debt or collateral challenges that stem from clients’ involvement in the criminal justice system. Clinic students may also advocate for broader law reform and system changes in collaboration with community-based Tulsa organizations. Assistant Clinical Professor of Law Anna E. Carpenter will oversee the creation of the new clinic. Ms. Carpenter joined the University of Tulsa College of Law faculty this summer, coming to TU from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was a clinical teaching fellow and a supervising attorney of the Community Justice Project. Ms. Carpenter’s extensive experience as an advocate for at-risk population will broaden and strengthen TU Law’s commitment to developing excellent lawyers and community-minded citizens, while supporting the underserved in our community.
Making Great Strides
TU Law students continue to make great strides supporting local nonprofit organizations through externships which allow them to gain academic credit for their legal work under licensed attorney supervision. The externship opportunities with nonprofits create a mutually beneficial situation as students gain hands-on practical learning while helping others to serve the legal needs of our community. So far this year, students have served entities including Catholic Charities, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Inc., Family and Children’s Services, Women in Recovery and Domestic Violence Intervention Services. Students help serve the under-represented by contributing to a wide variety of areas of need ranging from family law to bankruptcy, housing, disability and immigration among others. Our externship program allows them the opportunity to fulfill the legal needs of vulnerable citizens while gaining practical experience and learning the importance and reward of lifelong pro bono work, including a potential future career in the nonprofit sector.
These recent projects represent just a piece of TU Law’s longstanding commitment to public service, and we always seek new ideas on how our law students can make a difference.
Ms. Caves is assistant dean and director of experiential learning at The University of Tulsa College of Law. For questions, she may be contacted at Christyfirstname.lastname@example.org or 918-631-2421.