Real Clients in the First Year

Sara Rankin and Justin OlsonIn the spring semester of the first year, all 1L students have the opportunity to work on a case with our legal clinic or with local nonprofits. First year students research and analyze an issue for the clinic or nonprofit; they present the results of their research to the clinic or nonprofit in writing and sometimes orally. These "Real Client in the First Year" projects provide exceptional training in practical skills, generate remarkable student satisfaction, and ignite student passion for the practice of law.

Since 2009, when this program began, students have worked with in-house Seattle University partners in including the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic, the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, and the Center for Indian Law & Policy. They have also worked with local nonprofits including Legal Voice, the Fair Work Center, the National Employment Law Project, and ACLU-Washington.

Students have worked on issues ranging from immigration law to language access in the courts to questions involving wage theft to the admissibility of a litigant's immigration status to the treatment of pregnant women who are incarcerated, and many more.

What our students say:

Thanks for the great year and a very interesting final paper topic. It was an incredibly complex matter to look at and write about, but I can safely say that this project [working with the Center for Indian Law & Policy] was the highlight of my first year of law school. I find the issues that Indian law encompasses to be very compelling, particularly the way their laws relate to non-Indians and tribal relations with the U.S. I realize that the primary purpose of our paper was writing related, but it was really encouraging to have you engage us in material like this and to help us in working through these issues and present us with direction that enabled us to gain an understanding of the material and formulate our own elementary ideas about the subject matter.

Our students' work has made a real difference to our partner organizations. The student work has been used by the Law Clinic and our nonprofit partners to support successful litigation, to support changes to administrative regulations, and to assist with lobbying in support of legislative changes and the state and local level.

What our partners say:

Dear Dean Clark and Professor Holland,

I am writing to let you know about the incredible work Professor Rankin and her Legal Writing Class produced for our Homeless Education Project.

The Children and Youth Project (CYP) at Columbia Legal Services is exploring policy solutions that will help provide housing for homeless students and their families. In December, Professor Rankin reached out to our team about collaborating on a project focused on homelessness. CYP was in the beginning stages of developing this project and we were excited that Professor Rankin was willing to take on the challenge of developing the issue further.

Professor Rankin did a wonderful job orchestrating a complicated topic. She worked thoughtfully to create something that would be useful for our work, but never wavered on her goal of creating an excellent learning opportunity for her students.

We were highly impressed with the students' quality of work and commitment to our project. They produced a sophisticated analysis that went beyond the basics of legal writing and research. Their work set a solid foundation for us to hit the ground running on a $200,000 Gates Foundation initiative. Most importantly, their work could potentially impact more than 30,000 homeless students and their families.

My sincere compliments to you, Professor Rankin, and the students at SU Law for fostering an atmosphere that supports creative advocacy!

Kind regards,
Katara Jordan & Casey Trupin