Washburn Law Clinic: An Opportunity to Gain Real Experience

Jenni Howsman, Washburn Law 3L, speaks about her experience in Law Clinic this year.

This semester I’m in two clinics: the criminal defense litigation clinic and appellate advocacy.

I’m currently working on two cases in the criminal defense litigation clinic, and the first of two appeals for appellate advocacy. The cases for criminal defense clinic involve a domestic battery and a DUI. I’m in the beginning stages of my appeal – so I’m not sure what issues I’m raising yet, but it is an appeal from a felony drug case.

I recently argued two motions for the domestic battery case in front of a judge for the first time. It was a great first court experience! Having Professor Francis there was extremely helpful – as interns we’re in control of arguments in the courtroom; Professor Francis was there to ensure that all the important aspects of the arguments came out. As supervising attorney, Professor Francis spent a lot of time helping me prepare for the motion arguments by going over case strategy, and really figuring out the best way to present our side of the case to the court.

One of my favorite aspects of Clinic is getting a feel for what it’s like in the real world of practicing attorneys. The Clinic is in fact a real law firm, working for actual people in the community and helping them with their legal issues. I really enjoy the fact that clinic provides me the opportunity and ability to help people in the community and make a difference, while I’m still in law school.

The courtroom isn’t like class where you can skim a reading before class and pray you don’t get called on; the judge is going to ask questions and you’re going to have rebuttal arguments. I’m thankful to be learning all these lessons in the environment of the clinic and with Professor Francis being there for each stage of the case.

I believe that clinic is a great opportunity that every student should try to take advantage of before graduation. Clinic gets you out of the law student mindset — in class you read and discuss why there’s a certain policy or how the court looked at certain legal issues in deciding a particular way. In clinic – you’re the one that’s going to be arguing policies to a judge and how those policies apply to the facts of your case. You’re the lawyer making tactical decisions that can affect the outcome of the case.

Clinic has also reminded me that our legal system isn’t perfect, but it’s also great to know that law is always evolving. I think it’s really important for law students to remember that as lawyers, they can help shape – and even change the law.