Editorial: Law students help community, selves through service
Community service is a great way to both fill up a resum and, more importantly, do good for society.
Students from the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law are proving this. Through dedicating their time to four legal clinics, students are providing free legal service in the areas of child advocacy, domestic violence, immigration and tribal law to members of the community.
While the students are not yet pros, their services are providing much needed assistance to members of the community who might not otherwise be able to afford professional lawyers.
"As for the people who aren't represented, we are the only people giving free legal advice," said Lynn Marcus, an adjunct assistant law professor in charge of the immigration law clinic.
Many people seeking assistance in domestic violence or child advocacy cases might be single women or children who are unable to pay for their own legal services. Students working in the domestic violence clinic take the time to visit Tucson domestic violence shelters to inform women of the opportunity for free legal service. Abused or neglected children who would have little chance of being legally assisted are being helped in the 35 child advocacy cases the UA is handling. Students working in the immigration law clinic provide legal advice to non-citizens seeking political asylum in the United States. The tribal law clinic, which was recognized by the American Bar Association as one of the best clinical law programs in the country, helps Native American tribes develop legislation and improve their own legal capabilities by volunteering in tribal prosecution offices.
This free service benefits members of the community who often are taken advantage of, or unassisted by a legal system that depends heavily upon the amount of money clients are willing to fork over to their attorneys.
"I'm always impressed by the level of commitment and dedication (of the students)," said Zelda Harris, the domestic violence clinic director.
Often, the idea of a "free service" implies inferior quality, but none of the students provide assistance without first consulting with professional attorneys.
"Our students don't do anything without being guided or talking with a lawyer," said Andrew Silverman, the UA law schools director of clinical studies.
Besides helping the community, the program enables UA law students to build their level of experience and expertise in a wide variety of areas before venturing into their own legal careers.
J.C. Sandberg, a third year UA law student, plans to pursue corporate law but spends his extra time volunteering in the child advocacy clinic.
"I've seen an aspect of the law that I probably wouldn't have seen otherwise," Sandberg said.
Often students participate in community service activities simply to pad their resums. But while this may be their first inclination for helping the community, actually participating in efforts, as the UA law students are, teaches students the value and rewards inherent in community service.
For a generation often seen as apathetic to the dilemmas facing society, it is comforting to know that some students at the UA are working to make a difference.