Coastal Law Foundation annual fund focuses on legal clinics

DSC_0069From our inception, the faculty and students in the Coastal Law Legal Clinics have been providing thousands of hours of pro bono legal services to those who would often otherwise go unrepresented. In an effort to bolster those valuable services, the Florida Coastal School of Law Foundation will work to raise funds for clinics via its 2013-2014 Annual Fund.

“They’re very quiet about it – not much is known about what they’re doing within our community,” said Interim Executive Director of the Foundation, Elizabeth Bates. “I really don’t think people understand the void the clinics fill in Jacksonville as far as legal representation of the indigent populations.”

Money raised through the Annual Fund will benefit all of the in-house legal clinics, but the Foundation campaign centers on the Immigrant Rights Clinic and their work with victims of human trafficking.

“Our go-to place is Florida Coastal,” said Michelle Clowe, Reception and Placement Coordinator for World Relief and Co-Chair of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition. Clowe refers human trafficking clients and refugees to the clinics. “Professor Ericka Curran and her students are phenomenal in devoting their time to meet with these people. W

ithout Florida Coastal there would be a lot more vulnerable people in our community.”

The clinics are often the first experience a student has with a live client and, for many, it gives them a new perspective on the power of their education. Karla Arauz, third-year Coastal Law Immigrant Rights clinician, gained experience researching, writing memos, submitting applications, interviewing and translating as well as professional decorum when interacting and maintaining a relationship with a client.

“You learn how to talk like a lawyer – you get experience in everything right away,” said Arauz. “People assume that you’re an attorney it must be for the money, but no, it’s often for the people. The people who come into the clinic are the ones you really want to help because they have nowhere else to go.”

Because the clinics’ clients have limited resources of their own, the miscellaneous costs of defending a client is often left to faculty and student clinicians. As part of the Foundation’s Annual Fund, Bates hopes to alleviate as much of that cost as possible.

“By providing funding to the clinics, we are going to give them the opportunity to expand the legal work they do and subsequently provide more opportunities for students to receive hands-on experience,” said Bates. “I think working with these clients gives our students a great perspective on public service and many of them will tell you they have been changed forever.”