Many would-be lawyers are inspired by the grand constitutional battle in the U.S. Supreme Court or the charismatic defense attorneys of the movies, but most lawyers end up spending a lot of time answering quick, easy questions for clients or reviewing legal documents.
But due to the cost, even such simple legal advice, which could make a big difference to the client, is often out of the realm of possibility for many low-income communities.
Lipscomb’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society is addressing both matters this fall with its first set of free community legal clinics. The first was held Aug. 22, and a second is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 4, in the Burton Health Sciences Center, Room 234, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
These clinics will bring free legal advice to audiences that often don’t have access to it, while also giving Lipscomb students a glimpse of the real attorney/client relationship, said institute Academic Director Randy Spivey.
“Many people do not have access to legal service because they can’t afford it or don’t know how to go about getting it,” said Spivey. “Legal aid organizations do a wonderful job attempting to meet this need, but they cannot do it alone. Pro bono clinics staffed by lawyers in a wide variety of legal fields are desperately needed.”
The Lipscomb free legal clinic will feature lawyers who are generalists and can address an array of simple legal issues. The location allows for free parking for clients and the timing allows clients to visit the clinic after working hours. There will also be Spanish speakers available for translations.
Volunteer attorneys will be available to meet with clients and discuss legal problems, answer questions, explain legal rights or review legal documents. The public can come to the clinic with questions on immigration, conflict disputes, debt issues, inheritance or tax issues, or any other type of legal matter. Paralegals and Lipscomb students will be available to assist clients in registration and organizing records.
“Part of the institute’s mission is to serve the community with programs and dialogue on contemporary social and legal issues, so a free legal clinic is a great way to meet that mission and maximize the resources we have here, especially our students. The clinic will give them a very convenient way to see the on-the-ground legal issues lawyers commonly deal with,” Spivey said.
Lipscomb has about 80 law, justice and society majors, many of whom plan to go on to law school. The program is designed to show students how the legal system can be a vehicle for bringing about positive social change.
“I hope to get a sense of the values the attorneys have, so that one day I will be able to model myself and my career after them,” said Jordan Howes, a sophomore law, justice and society major from Hendersonville. “The clinic is a great opportunity for the university to help the community as well as the institute. Watching the attorneys who are involved will really give me great insight into how I can help the community post law school.”
Clients should bring any papers that deal with the problem. Lawyers may only have 10 to 15 minutes to talk to each person. They will not be available to take on cases presented by clients at the clinic, and they won’t be able to go to court with clients from the clinic.