|News||. . . .||Arts||. . . .||Calendars||. . . .||Letters||. . . .||Links||. . . .||Deadlines||. . . .||Archive|
Course offered from space
"What's in the News"
Elsewhere in Higher Education
A shot in the dark
Harrisburg arts center renamed
Internet 2 advisory councils
Filling an order
From the experts
|Penn State news bureau|
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke at The Dickinson School of Law on March 21,
at a ceremony celebrating the school's merger with Penn State. Scalia received
an honorary degree at the ceremony, which also was attended by
Gov. Tom Ridge; President Graham B. Spanier; and Peter Glenn,
dean of The Dickinson School of Law.
Photo: Courtesy of the Carlisle Sentinel
Back to top of page
The law clinics at The Dickinson School of Law
provide legal assistance to low-income
By Deb Ryerson
The Dickinson School of Law
Long before the teaching of lawyering skills became commonplace in law schools, The Dickinson School of Law was in the forefront of providing opportunities for students to gain real-life, hands-on experience while providing a community service.
The Law School's involvement with live legal clinics began during the 1960s when a pre-cursor to Cumberland County's Legal Services Inc. was incorporated into the curriculum. Today, a state-of-the-art legal clinic building in downtown Carlisle stands as a symbol of the Law School's commitment to teaching law students how to provide quality representation to real clients.
Two clinics, the Family Law Clinic and the Disability Law Clinic, are housed in the North Pitt Street building, known as the Dale F. Shughart Community Law Center. Other in-house clinics at the Law School include the Prison Clinic and the Art, Sports and Entertainment Law Clinic. There are also a wide variety of off-campus experiences available through the field placement program, which places law students in public defenders' and district attorneys' offices, Legal Services offices, state and federal judges' and administrative offices, and legislative settings.
The Family Law Clinic can accommodate approximately 12 students each semester who represent low-income residents in cases involving divorce, child custody, support, protection from abuse and, occasionally, such things as stepparent adoption, paternity and suits involving allegations of child abuse.
"Many students recognize that the clinic is a different kind of experience than clerking for a law firm during the summer," said Katherine Pearson, one of the faculty supervisors for the Family Law Clinic. "The law firm experience is often what we call a third-chair experience, where there may be two layers between the student and the client. Our students really have a first-chair experience, with their supervisor sitting in the second chair."
Other faculty clinic supervisors are Robert Rains, Disability and Family Law Clinics; Tom Place, Family Law and Prison Clinics; and Donald Marritz, clinic staff attorney who assists with both the family and disability law clinics.
Students in the Family Law Clinic typically handle 10 or more cases per semester, and there is generally a waiting list for those cases not deemed an emergency.
"The primary goal of the clinics is teaching," said Rains. "But we hope in the process to impart to our students an appreciation of the importance of public interest law while providing quality representation to people who would otherwise go unrepresented in the legal system."
"Students tell us the clinic is one of the most valuable experiences they have in law school," said Pearson. "It makes them appreciate their regular classes more. It helps them make decisions about how and where they want to practice. Sometimes the best references they get are from opposing counsel who are impressed with their hard work and the high quality of their representation."
Family Law Clinic cases are handled as they would be in private law firms. The student lawyer meets with his or her client either under the supervision of a faculty member or is videotaped for later review. The student and faculty member then consult about the case, and the student reviews with the client the client's options and the student's recommendations.Together, the client and student agree on a plan of action.
"While many cases are resolved by negotiation either before or after they are filed in court, on those occasions when a case must go to a hearing or trial, the clinic students present the case to the court under the supervision of a faculty member or staff attorney," said Rains.
In addition to the practical component, the Family Law Clinic program has a weekly class component during which students learn about substantive Pennsylvania law or hear guest speakers, who may include divorce masters, Legal Services attorneys, court administrators, Department of Public Welfare staff and others.
Pearson said the majority of clinic students end up in private practice after law school, with more than half practicing family law.
"Some decide they don't want to practice family law," she said. "The level of human emotion involved in family law isn't for everyone. Students recognize how important their role of counselor is in family law, and some have more success in that than others."
The Disability Law Clinic averages four students per semester, handling about 40 cases at one time. These cases involve supplemental security income claims, handicap discrimination, cases brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, special education problems, and Social Security disability claims. According to Rains, clinic cases come from word-of-mouth referrals from past clients, attorneys in private practice and agencies and courts before which the clinic students practice.
He said students join the Disability Law Clinic for a variety of reasons: the hands-on experience, an interest in disability issues, and to provide service.
"In addition, students gain experience in reading and understanding medical records," said Rains. "There are a lot of areas of the law where you need some amount of medical sophistication."
Jessica Diamondstone '98 was one of those who joined the Disability Law Clinic because she had an interest in special education and disability issues. "It's been extremely educational and very humbling," she said. "You get out of the textbook arena and realize that everything you do is affecting a person. It makes us see the reality of what it is we're supposed to be doing. I would advise any student to do a live clinic. It's so important that you meet and deal with real people. I really don't think we understand the implications and significance until we actually do it."
The building which houses the Family and Disability Law Clinic is a state-of-the-art facility with student offices, conference rooms, electronic legal research technology, and an 1,800-square-foot law library, making it better equipped than many private law offices. At the clinic building dedication in September 1992, Tom Place said the clinics serve more than the interests of the students in receiving a quality legal education.
"Clinics serve the interests of low-income clients by providing a service that is otherwise unavailable in the community," Place said. "Clinics also serve the community, as we all benefit when disputes are resolved in an orderly manner and when our justice system is available to all citizens."
Back to top of page
Vuong T. Bui, senior technician-research in College of Medicine.
Priscilla S. Carman, research support associate in College of Education.
Kim L. Credito, senior technician-research in College of Medicine.
Nancy L. DeCrappeo, staff assistant IV in College of Health and Human Development.
Julie D. Eble, coordinator, publications and promotions in Computer and Information Systems-Telecommunications.
Irene T. Elliott, staff assistant V at Penn State Abington.
Patricia L. Gibboney, staff assistant VI in College of the Liberal Arts.
John J. Givler, senior purchasing agent in Applied Research Laboratory.
Patricia A. Green, deputy security officer in Applied Research Laboratory.
Jack S. Gundrum, system programmer in Computer and Information Systems-Center for Academic Computing.
Tammy E. Hahn, staff assistant VI in Continuing and Distance Education.
Christa L. Haines, staff assistant VI in Division of Development and Alumni Relations.
Suzanne E. Hile, senior technician-research in College of Medicine.
Sharon M. Holzwarth, staff assistant VI in Office of Vice President for Research.
Susan L. Kelley, program manager in College of Medicine.
Patricia L. Masden, staff assistant VI in Continuing and Distance Education.
Hilda E. Nieweg, staff assistant VI in Applied Research Laboratory.
Susan T. Paciolla, staff assistant VII at Penn State Abington.
Donna S. Ream, staff assistant VI in College of Medicine.
Barbara P. Smith, senior research programmer in Computer and Information Systems-Center for Academic Computing.
Kathleen M. Strickler, staff assistant VI in Continuing and Distance Education.
Lucy C. Szklinski, manager for business services in Applied Research Laboratory.
Nancy J. Thorn, marketing communications account specialist in The Smeal College of Business Administration.
Laura B. Trinca, staff assistant V in Housing and Food Services.
John Van Eck, applications systems analyst in Office of Vice President for Research.
Linda J. Wheeland, staff assistant VII in College of Arts and Architecture.
Laurie Wheeler, staff assistant VI in Graduate School.
James M. Williamson, conference services manager at The Nittany Lion Inn.
John R. Bathurst, maintenance worker/insulating in Office of Physical Plant.
John C. Blickley, food preparer A in Business Services.
Timothy S. Bowmaster, instrument maker in Eberly College of Science.
Gregory A. Butts, lead insulator/
steam trap maintenance in Office of Physical Plant.
Tracy K. Cappel, dining hall worker A in Housing and Food Services.
William R. Conway, maintenance worker-general in Housing and Food Services.
Theodore L. Coulter, farm machinery operator in College of Agricultural Sciences.
Linda L. Emel, operator, network production printer in Business Services.
Cathy D. Eutzy, dining hall worker A in Housing and Food Services.
Linda A. Goss, athletic equipment and facilities worker in Intercollegiate Athletics.
Kenneth E. Grubb, lead painter in Office of Physical Plant.
Frank M. Hassinger, lead carpenter in Office of Physical Plant.
William W. Houser, maintenance worker-insulation in Office of Physical Plant.
Lynette H. Immel, dining hall worker A in Housing and Food Services.
Michelle H. Kopp, food processing and bakery worker in Housing and Food Services.
David L. Kresovich, maintenance worker/insulating in Office of Physical Plant.
William R. Laird, maintenance worker-general in Housing and Food Services.
Harry M. Nelson, building custodian at The Dickinson School of Law.
David B. Pattillo, catering assistant in Housing and Food Services.
Back to top of page
Back to Intercom home page