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By Valerie S. Johnson
If you can’t afford a lawyer, all might not be lost. One option that may be available to you is being represented by a law student who is not yet a full-fledged attorney. Call or check the websites for the universities in your area with law schools. Many have “clinics” which give law students hands-on experience working on real cases at no charge to their clients.
The first step is to find out if your situation is the type that law students would typically handle. Law school clinics may accept some of the following as their clients: refugees seeking political asylum, adult and juvenile criminal defendants (for misdemeanor cases such as assault, prostitution, drug possession, theft, unlawful entry, destruction of property, shoplifting, and weapons offenses), victims of domestic violence, victims of employment discrimination and individuals threatened with eviction. Some clinics may provide legal aid only to clients who meet certain income eligibility requirements.
You will also want to check the level of supervision that will be provided to the student. Usually, law students are not given free rein to take your case to the Supreme Court. You will want to make sure that their professors are actively involved in reviewing all the work done on your case.
Students generally receive grades and credit for their participation in these hands on training programs, so it is in their interest to devote themselves to their assigned cases. What students may lack in courtroom experience, they may make up for in enthusiasm and dedication that money can’t buy.