Tag Archives: legal system

Students in Sixty Plus Clinic Reflect on Their Great Experiences

Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary is professor of law and director of WMU-Cooley’s Sixty Plus. Inc. Elderlaw Clinic.  She is a national leader in clinical education, including having served as chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Clinical Legal Education.  Prof. O’Leary writes that “My students are the bright light in the room, always, for me.” She shares with us some of her students’ reflections about their Sixty Plus Clinic experience.

One student noted the feelings a clinical student goes through:
It was like a switch clicked and all of a sudden you know what you’re doing.  The most important skill is patience – with clients, with learning, with systems.  The first term, I had PTSD:  post traumatic supervisory disorder.  It’s all about time and how to manage it.
Here are important realizations from another student:
They actually valued my opinions and my ideas.  I realized I can do it.  I realized certain areas I need to improve.  I learned how you can become the lawyer you want to be.
Another student learned that there is plenty of room for good lawyers, especially those who can work as part of a team:

I heard there’s too many lawyers.  There’s NOT too many lawyers.  Instead, there are so many people who could benefit from a lawyer who don’t have access to one.

Good lawyers find a way to get paid to help people who need them.

There’s work to be done.

I learned a lot about the elderly.

I’ve always been independent. I was nervous about working in a team.

I’ve learned how to work with people in a professional setting.

Yet another offered practical suggestions to future clinical students at the Law School:

·         Write down new ideas so you don’t forget them.

·         Be confident in your role as a lawyer.

·         Act like you know what you’re doing.

·         You don’t have to write a lot to write something good.

·         It’s OK to smile.

Here are some gems:
Silence is OK, and sometimes it is necessary.  I can interact with a client.  I can be creative, think outside the box.  I learned that issues often intertwine.  Knowing where to start . . . .  Explaining the law to clients.  Huge boost of confidence.  Preparation is key.

This student realized that a lawyer sometimes encounters difficult clients:

The client sometimes changes her goals.

After we communicated, the client who initially felt lost instead felt relief and appreciated what I had done for her.

I learned it is OK to ask for help.

Sometimes it is best to gracefully withdraw when you think a client is being unethical.

This student loved the experience of working with colleagues:
I loved bouncing ideas back and forth, exploring issues, putting everything together, getting different perspectives from classmates.  I learned better ways of communication and the importance of staying organized.
And this student exclaimed how she has learned what she wants to do upon graduation, adding some practice pointers for us:

·         This experience led me to my passion.

·         I want to be a solo practitioner in estate planning.

·         Discussing your ultimate wishes is a favor to your family.

·         I want to do Medicaid planning.


·         Don’t take anything at face value.  Investigate.

·         Take deep breaths, and rub your temples.

·         Opinion letters are your best friend.

·         Remember the grand scheme of things.

These students performed admirably in the clinic, learning not only the law but how to serve their clients with skill and compassion.  WMU-Cooley Law School is proud of their achievements.  If you haven’t yet taken your clinic or externship, a valuable and exciting time awaits you.  If you have, please share your experiences with us by commenting below or writing us at alumni@cooley.edu.

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Filed under Faculty Scholarship, Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, Student News, Achievements, Awards, The Value of a Legal Education

What It Means to Love the Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

By Nelson P. Miller

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law, offers a very personal and insightful perspective on the law.

It is hard to know if many lawyers reach this point in a law career.  Lawyer media report no surveys.  Yet the other day I realized, with no specific inspiration, that I love the law.

Any self-respecting lawyer would push the thought aside as inanity.  To love the law is way too sentimental, when law and its practice have very little to do with sentiment.  The legal mind, law profession, and lawyer’s spirit are practical and pragmatic.  Most lawyers barely allow room for emotion, and when we do, the emotions tend to be hard, like fear and conviction, rather than sweetly sentimental.

Yet for days, the thought of loving the law pursued me, filling the silent interstices between researching, writing, reviewing documents, and fielding client inquiries.  (I am a law professor and dean but retain the privilege of pro bono work.)  The thought of deeply loving what one does began brightening day after day of it, tempered only slightly by the fear that loving it might mean losing it sooner rather than later.  (Fear is a trial lawyer’s natural emotion from which we draw that indispensable trial-lawyer resource: courage.)

Most lawyers are wise enough to love law’s practice, meaning the interaction with clients, lawyers, witnesses, experts, and court staff.  What cold heart would not appreciate routine relationship with so rich a cast of needful, ambitious, humorous, and unique characters?  It can take some time, but lawyers even learn to love judges—on any day other than one misspent losing a motion.

Nearly all lawyers also love the engagement that law practice brings, not just to know a community’s problems like reading a local newspaper but to solve those problems.  Lawyers pursue a community’s possibilities rather than merely speculate about them.  Lawyers love doing, from attacking the horror of human trafficking all the way to negotiating public bond financing for a hospital authority.  What pitiable professional soul could remain indifferent to such terrible problems and profound possibilities?

The public thinks lawyers love the money.  The remuneration that necessarily flows from law practice can carry its own small satisfaction.  After all, earning one’s keep and the keep of one’s family are first responsibilities.  Should we not find modest solace in it?  Yet lawyers know that the lawyer who loves money pursues a relentless, untrustworthy, and discredited master.  Loving the law is not the same as loving its profit.  Far from it.

To love the law means more than to love its practice or profit.  Think of the law itself, stripped of its people and purposes.  Loving the law entails discerning law’s sensitivity, how well the law listens and responds to people and purposes.  Loving the law entails discerning law’s power, to which not just parties and their lawyers but also judges and officials must bend.  Most of all, loving the law entails discerning law’s source, as the Declaration says in inalienable rights granted from God rather than government.  Few things could deserve greater devotion.

In the end, loving the law may not be sentimental but sacrificial.  Loving the law requires bending one’s own naturally selfish ways to the selfless way of a gloriously jealous but nonetheless perfect master.  Maybe more lawyers, indeed all lawyers whether emerging or experienced, should love the law unashamedly.  Sure, keep priorities in order.  Love God, kin, and country before career, even when the career is a satisfying law practice.  Yet loving the law can come very close to loving something and someone much greater.  What a good day it is to be a lawyer.

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Filed under Faculty Scholarship, The Value of a Legal Education