Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Legal Clinics Under Fire

In a recent New York Times story, Ian Urbina reports on four significant challenges to law school clinics. Legal clinics at the University of Maryland School of Law, Tulane Law School, the University of Michigan, and Rutgers University have been attacked for the way they are handling cases or the information they have acquired while representing clients.

This is a recurrent theme. Tulane, for example, has an Environmental Law Clinic that was in a major fight with the petrochemical industry in 1998. As a result, the Louisiana Supreme Court restricted the cases that students could handle in state courts. (Louisiana Supreme Court Administrative Rule XX.)

Complaints against school-based legal clinics will continue to increase as long as they continue to expand the role they take in the legal system. When clinics were only representing certain kinds of low income clients there was not much controversy. When clinics file class action suits that affect major industries they will draw fire. When they represent unpopular high profile clients they will draw fire.