Author Archives: ahammond

Hands On Learning—Coastal Grad Kara Roberts’ Story

How the Clinic Changed My Life

 We often think of the Clinics and Skills Labs offered at Florida Coastal School of Law (“FCSL”) from the perspective of how they make a difference in so many lives and generally we are thinking of the clients (as we should!), but I want to take a moment to encourage you to consider it from a different perspective – they can make a difference in your life as well because they certainly made a difference in mine as  a student, as a professional, and just as a person learning who I am and what makes me happy.  I was incredibly lucky that I took a shot and applied for the Immigrant Rights Clinic (“IRC”) in 2007 because it completely changed my life.  Now let me tell you why you should take that same shot.

 Prior to the IRC, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but plenty of ideas of what I did not want to do through past positions, employers, experiences, etc.  My dad told me, “There are three people in life:  one who loves what he does and doesn’t make much money; one who hates what he does and makes lots of money; and a rare individual who loves what he does and makes lots of money doing it.”  Based on my past experiences, I knew I could only be two of those three (and, unfortunately for me, making lots of money would make me a rare individual, but financial planning will be a discussion for another day), so I started wondering ‘what could I love to do in the legal profession?’ For many, this involves anything that leads to making lots of money.  For others, it is impact work through lobbying, academic papers and analysis, etc.  For some, it is the desire to litigate and “go to bat” for the underdog.  And for most, it is some combination of these and many other factors.  Now I just had to figure out what kind of work I would love.

 The IRC started in August 2007; I was one of the lucky first students.  I applied for it because my business law professor from undergrad, Mr. Robert Schupp, encouraged me to get some experience in Immigration law as he felt demand in our area would grow and it would be good experience to have as a new attorney.  I interviewed with Professor Ericka Curran and for some reason she decided to accept me in her class; hopefully she will not regret this.  I got my first few cases and I knew I loved this work.

 I loved everything about the IRC – the clients, the work, the positive impact on the community, the long hours, the late evenings, and knowing I was doing something for someone who had nowhere else to turn.  I was learning how to be a lawyer before I was one; I had the luxury of making mistakes and having them corrected by my professor instead of a partner in a firm, a judge, or an Immigration officer.  I was also completely responsible for my case load; it was real experience with real clients in the real world.  When I needed it, I had the undivided attention of an expert (as with all professors for all of the Clinics).  My professor soon turned into my mentor and I was nothing short of inspired.  I was hungry for more and, lucky for me, more was coming – Professor Curran recommended me to Nancy Hale, Director of the Refugee Immigration Project at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. (“Refugee Project”), for an externship. 

I started as an extern for the Refugee Project in December 2007.  My experiences with the IRC and the Refugee Project simply made me even more dedicated to the immigrant population with unmet needs in our community.  I came on as an Attorney for the Refugee Project in October 2008 and at the end of 2010 my position was threatened due to the effects of the economic downturn.  I decided to try and fundraise to save my job (really the services provided through it as our project simply cannot function with only one attorney) instead of accepting a lay-off so easily because my experience showed me the value of these services and the consequences should I just give up without even trying.  My efforts and those of my supporters paid off and the Refugee Project was able to avoid cutting additional services.  Had I never been in the IRC, this would have never happened; it happened because I figured out what motivates me, what I care about, and what makes me happy –  and I did this by participating in the IRC.

 So, what does this have to do with you? The point I am trying to make is that experience is what will make all the difference in your life because that is the only way you can answer the questions that form your goals.  The Clinics, the Skills Labs, Externships, Internships, Moot Court, Mock Trial, Law Review, etc. – these are all tools at your disposal at FCSL to get you experience before you become an attorney and any of them are just as excellent for experience as the others.  Personally, I was better in the IRC than my attempts at trying out for Moot Court because I was never terribly good at role-playing, but the moment I had an actual client in front of me, there was no stopping me; this is why trying any and all of those “tools” is the best recommendation I can give you – you need experience to be a more attractive candidate for any position and you need to know yourself to be successful at anything (do I learn better through live experience and/or role-playing? Do I enjoy helping others? Is compensation the only motivator for me? Will doing this or that really make me happy? – and there is no right answer, just the honest answers that help you make better decisions).  The greatest disservice you can do to yourself is to not take advantage of these opportunities for experience while you are in school – know who you are and what you want to do before you go into the real world. 

 I strongly encourage you to apply for the Clinics because I guarantee that experience will change your life either by helping you really find yourself and your passion or by allowing you to better understand what kind of work you really want to do (and you work under some pretty amazing attorneys there).  I strongly encourage you to apply for any and all skills labs you can – especially the Naturalization Skills Lab offered in the Spring semester because it sounds like an opportunity for some great experience and some fun (hint, hint – and there is yet another way the IRC changed my life). 

In all seriousness, I hope you decide to apply for the Clinics, I hope it changes your life as well, and I hope that through those experiences you find what I found before graduation – my passion, my purpose, and myself. 


Naturalization Law Skills Lab’s Citizenship Day Huge Success

This year’s Citizenship Day at Coastal was held on Saturday April 13th and attracted a record number of applicants to become naturalized U.S. citizens from the Jacksonville community. The event was put on by the Coastal Law Naturalization Skills Lab, taught by Professor Kara Roberts, and her students Christopher Castro, Christina Chavez, John Finland, Alberto Lugo, Samantha Pyatt, Sandra Alvarado Sanchez, and Chantel Simon. After learning the substantive law of naturalization, the students applied it by pre-screening and counseling many applicants, holding community outreach to explain the law to potential applicants and volunteers, assisting applicants with their applications and planning and successfully holding this annual event initiated by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”). Volunteering at the event this year were many Coastal students, faculty and staff, as well as attorneys from the Jacksonville area, interpreters from a local non-profit agency and church volunteers. The community came out in great number and expressed gratitude for this life changing event put on by Florida Coastal School of Law. Thank you to all who gave of their time to this event.


The Office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida is soliciting applications for fall 2013 externships. This credit-bearing externship is a great way to gain practical experience.
Information regarding this opportunity that you must read carefully has been emailed to all students and is posted on Symplicity. The externship is open to students who will have completed all of the first year course requirements by the end of summer 2013. U.S. citizenship is required. CLI is not required.

The deadline for applying online for this externship is Friday, May 3, 2013.
Interested students should submit the following documents:

U.S. Attorney Pre-Interview questionnaire form (copy emailed to students and on Symplicity);
FCSL transcript (unofficial is OK);
Writing Sample;
Cover letter expressing why you want this placement addressed to:
Ms. Judith Hoberman
Human Resources Specialist
Office of the United States Attorney, Middle District of Florida
400 N. Tampa Street, suite 3200
Tampa, FL 33602

All of the above should be e-mailed to the following address:

You cannot submit these materials by mail or on Symplicity. They must be directly e-mailed to before the May 3 deadline. Please send a courtesy copy (“cc”) of your e-mail to if you plan to earn externship credit.

If you have any questions, please contact Professor Hammond.

Focus: Education Law Skills Lab

The Education Law skills lab, led by Professor Beverly Brown, is only in its third semester, but has already provided services to more than 30 low income clients, who are seeking assistance in pursuing a free and appropriate education for their school aged children. Some of the parents need assistance obtaining eligibility of services for students with disabilities who have been denied or who have been overlooked by the legal mandate, Child Find. Others are parents who have children identified as needing services under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that the schools are failing to provide.

The skills lab students have been engaged in legal research, motion practice, depositions, drafting all forms of discovery, working on individual education plans and IEP attendance. In addition, students have been involved with clients who are involved in the Juvenile Justice system. Students are working with public defenders to strengthen cases and support criminal defenses as they relate to the child’s disability, or the school’s failure to provide appropriate services.

This skills lab will be offered in the summer 2013, and is an excellent hands-on practice experience.

USAO Summer 2013 Application Deadline is January 25–Do Not Delay!

The Office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida is soliciting applications for summer 2013 externships. This credit-bearing externship is a great way to gain practical experience while earning skills credit. 

The deadline for applying for a USAO externship is Friday, January 25, 2013 by 5 p.m. To do so, you must submit a letter of interest (cover letter), resume, transcript, writing sample and the USAO background questionnaire to the Clinic Office, room 255, by the deadline.  Look for an email that was sent to all students attaching information regarding this opportunity. The information also is available in the Clinic Office and on Symplicity.

Apply for Summer 2013 Clinics and Externships!

Applications are now available for summer 2013 clinics and externships. Clinics and externships are the best opportunities that you have in law school to get actual legal work experience. Legal work experience is the most important factor that employers look at when hiring a new attorney. Clinics and externships can also help you decide what kind of law you want to practice. Coastal strongly encourages all of its students to do at least one clinic, externship, or skills lab before they graduate.

The applications are attached to this email and are also available under their respective pages at: You can learn more about the clinic and externship opportunities at this link as well.
You must have completed all of your first year courses to be eligible for a credit bearing externship. You must have completed 48 credit hours, PR, and Evidence to be eligible for a clinic. In addition, some of the clinics require a clearance certificate from the Florida Bar to be eligible to be a Certified Legal Intern (CLI).

You can also hear more about our clinics and externships at the following informational meetings:
January 22 at noon in room 525
January 24 at 5:00 PM in room 465
January 25 at noon in room 515
January 29 at 3:00 in room 405

There will also be a separate informational meeting for Judicial Externships on:
January 28 at noon in room 250.

If you are interested in doing an externship outside of northeast Florida (i.e. a long distance externship) this summer, you will need to gain approval for the externship. You can apply for approval for a long distance externship by completing the appropriate form located on Sumplicity and the FCSL website. The deadline for applying for a long distance externship is April 12.

Please feel free to contact any of our Clinical Programs Professors with any questions regarding clinics and externships and the application process. I have provided their contact information below.

Professor Ericka Curran – Immigration Rights Clinic – 680-7650 –
Professor Lois Ragsdale – Criminal Defense Clinic – 680-7661 –
Professor Sarah Sullivan – Disability and Benefits Rights Clinic – 256-1243 –
Professor Laura Boeckman – Consumer Law Clinic and Judicial Externship Coordinator – 680-7654 –
Professor Natalie Tuttle – Family Law Clinic – 680-7644 –
Professor Ada Hammond – Non-Judicial Externship Coordinator – 256-1157 –

We look forward to working with you in one of the most exciting, valuable and rewarding experiences in your law school career!

Register for a Skills Lab for Spring Semester

Some of our skills labs still have openings for spring. Students who enroll in a two (2) credit Skills Lab will work on pro bono cases with a professor practicing law in Florida in a class of no more than 8 students. The skills labs encompass a number of different practice areas. You may enroll in any skills for which you meet the prerequisites that is not yet filled. Please visit the FCSL website under Academics–Experiential Learning, to find more information on the skills labs. If you would like to review a summary of the skills labs being offered for spring, please email Professor Hammond at, and I will send you the information.

JAA Externship a Great Experience

Jason Kemp is our first extern at the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. Jason kindly provided some bullet points from his externship there, to assist future externs in obtaining the most from an externship with the JAA. Here are some points made by Jason regarding the kind of work an extern can expect to receive at the JAA:

• Get to work with Chief Counsel for the agency that governs the operation of Jacksonville’s 4 airports
• Atmosphere is comparable to that of General Counsel at any large corporation
• Work closely with CEO, CFO, and COO on unique legal issues that arise in airport operations and management
• Exposure to an independent agency that operates as a hybrid between a governmental body and a corporation, which offers the opportunity to learn a wide range of legal issues
• Exposure to the Government in the Sunshine Act and its implications
• Research and analyze issues with procurement. Procurement is something most will not learn at law school, so this is a great opportunity to learn from an agency whose staff have a great deal of knowledge on procurement.
• Research changes in Employment (Human Resources) Law and help update JAA policies to be compliant with such changes
• Gain knowledge about the FAA and the regulatory scheme that governs civil aviation in America
• Research changes in the regulatory law to maintain compliance
• Draft possible changes in airport policy to maintain compliance with the federal regulations
• Get to tour the facilities at each of the four Jacksonville airports to better understand the implications of JAA policies
• Attend meetings with executives
• Attend board meetings
• Research and gain an understanding of the law in the following areas plus more: employment, tax, civil rights, regulatory, procurement, sunshine laws, law enforcement, premises liability, etc.
**Intern must pass a drug screen and background check prior to starting. Allow 2-4 weeks for this. If selected, Human Resources will guide the intern through the process with ease.

Below are more bullet points provided by Jason regarding the environment and culture at the JAA, from his personal experience.

• The people I work with are great–ethical, professional, and great people to learn from.
• The workplace environment is a positive one. It is relatively low stress. Most times I have time to fully research an issue and draft a memo as opposed to a law firm where the research and motion must be completed immediately.
• I love aviation, so working right by the airport is a cherry on top, so to speak.
• I get a good mix of general legal issues and aviation-related issues.
• Most importantly, I love coming to work. The subject matter and the people are great! It beats taking a course on a subject I will likely not use, because I am learning law that I know I will use at some point.
• Mrs. Braga is the best supervisor I could ask for. She’s brilliant. She is patient. She keeps me busy. It is the perfect situation for a law student.
We very much appreciate the time taken by Jason to reflect on his experience at the JAA and to share his reflections with future externs. This is an excellent example of what the clinical faculty means when we encourage our students to become reflective lawyers. Thank you, Jason.

Unemployment Benefits Skills Lab Prevails in First Hearing

The Unemployment Benefits Skills Lab won its first hearing on the appeal of the denial of the client’s claim for unemployment compensation benefits. The Appeals Referee reversed the denial of benefits, finding that the employer’s claim that the client committed misconduct connected with the work was based only on hearsay evidence, such that the employer did not meet its burden of proof. The client had been employed by the employer for 10 years at the time of termination and was very grateful for the representation that the Skills Lab provided on a pro bono basis.

Students Holly Bayham, Ben Kelly, Lauren Gerena, Jonathan Toomey and Joshua Funk participated in the client interview, preparation for the hearing and attended the hearing. Soon, they will be representing clients at hearings, under the supervision of their professor. Special recognition goes to student Danitza Gonzales, who is the Lab’s TA, and who has worked as an Appeals Referee, for her insight and assistance with the hearing preparation.