Legal give law students practice working with clients.

Courtesy of Cornell University.

Legal give law students practice working with clients.

December 1, 2019

Legal Clinics Offer Real World Practice for Cornell Law Students

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To supplement what they learn in the law school classroom with real-life experience, Cornell law students participate in courses, dubbed “clinics,” where students assist real clients with real legal problems.

Many people are unaware of their legal protections or have trouble accessing government agencies that do assist workers with certain types of cases because “low-income people do not have a right to legal counsel with civil matters,” said Labor Law Clinic director Prof. Angela B. Cornell, law.

As part of its day to day routine, the Labor Law Clinic assists non-profits, worker centers and unions with issues that need legal attention in addition to members of our community and international labor law cases.

The clinic’s cases involved workers who faced retaliation for trying to address workplace issues: Cornell recalled a case last year when she represented a woman who lawfully spoke to other workers about issues of pay but was fired for doing so.

Likewise, inspired by the demand for immigration assistance to the Cornell community and asylum seekers, Prof. Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer, Law, created the Immigration Law and Advocacy Clinic, giving first-year law students an opportunity to engage in real client work.

The cases sometimes involve Cornellians, too. According to Kelley-Widmer, “the [immigration law] clinic will handle limited immigration applications for Cornell students, faculty, and staff, specifically working on DACA renewal cases (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and naturalization cases (for citizenship).”

Throughout the process, students work in teams on legal work, meeting with clients, collecting evidence, drafting applications and preparing filings.

Under faculty supervision, students interview clients and conduct a legal analysis of their claims, eventually suggesting a course of action for the clients.

“Students will also present legal information orally and/or in writing during presentations,” Kelley-Widmer told The Sun in an email.

By offering a clinic to the community, the assistance will benefit clients, who will not have to travel far for the immigration assistance they need, which requires detailed knowledge of the law and process.

Outside of Cornell, the immigration clinic involves law students traveling to other states to bring legal knowledge directly to impacted communities, such as through presentations and public trainings about how to be an ally to undocumented and DACA students.

Ultimately Kelley-Widmer “hopes that [the immigration] clinic inspires law students to get involved and stay involved with public service.”