LENS Business, Law, and Policy

A New Precedent

More Experiential Learning Better Prepares Students

Seth Garfinkel graduates from the School of Law in May with experiences that should serve him well when he starts working on immigration cases for the U.S. Department of Justice in Denver.

In recent months, Garfinkel worked at a school clinic, assisting people seeking asylum in the United States. “We know how to file applications with the immigration court, maintain productive client relationships and operate in a professional legal setting,” Garfinkel said.

Part of the intent of the new curriculum the law school launched in 2014 is for students to gain such practical skills. “Our goal is to give our students the highest quality educational experiences and our clients and community partners the highest quality representation,” said Judith Lipton, JD, associate dean for experiential education and the Honorable Blanche E. Krupansky and Frank W. Vargo Jr. Professor of Law. “Our students graduate better prepared for their first jobs and with a better sense of their long-term career goals.”

Garfinkel’s class is the first to complete the full three years of the new curriculum, which includes substantially more writing requirements and opportunities for direct legal experience.

During their first semester on campus, for example, students work in greater Cleveland and beyond, providing free legal advice, but not representation. During her first year, Nicole Triola spent a week in Memphis at a nonprofit helping families fill out immigration paperwork for their children. And this academic year, she worked with Garfinkel on asylum cases in the school’s Civil Rights, Human Rights and Immigration Clinic.

The Memphis experience showed Triola “how much I enjoy working with clients,” and better prepared her for this year’s impactful work with people on their life-changing asylum applications.

“The reality of law school is you have to acquire experience practicing law,” said Avidan Cover, JD, associate professor of law, who runs the civil rights clinic. “Having a real, live client with legal challenges enhances your attitude and approach pretty quickly.”