I had a great clinic experience in law school. I participated in a consumer protection clinic which was both extremely relevant and something that I’m very interested in. But I have heard varying opinions about clinics.
On the one hand, students have the opportunity to gain a great deal from clinic work by making connections, networking and gaining practical experience to jump-start their careers.
Of course, not every student lands a job through a clinic, and not all employers take clinical experience into account in the hiring process. Questions about the motives of clinic work are often raised; some view student attorneys in the same vein as research assistants, working on projects that advance a professor’s political agenda or research project.
And, as we’ve learned recently in Maryland, issues also arise when law schools receiving state funding file law suits that are considered by many to be against the better interests of the state. The University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic has drawn criticism about a lawsuit it filed against Perdue Farms and a chicken farming-family on the Eastern Shore, alleging violations of environmental regulations and polluting of the Chesapeake Bay.
Gov. Martin O’Malley came out recently against the litigation, calling it a waste of taxpayer money. The Hudson family, one of the defendants, has called the allegations false and warns it will lose its farm and livelihood should the law school prevail.
Proponents of the lawsuit say that it champions the causes of those people that can’t afford lawyers. But is any law school clinic representing the Hudsons?
What do you think about this case and the academic freedom currently given to law school clinics? Should the lawsuits filed by clinics receive greater scrutiny or is the Hudson’s plight just an unfortunate — but legitimate — outcome of our justice system?