Clinical Programs Newsletter

Clinical Programs Newsletter: Friday, December 18, 2015


Tamar BirckheadWhen UNC Clinical Programs faculty and staff gathered for our annual holiday celebration in early December, I was struck by how many people were sitting around the table.  When I began teaching at UNC twelve years ago, there were five faculty and one staff member in the clinic, and this semester we had ten faculty (some full and some part-time) and three staff members.  During this period, we've also expanded from three clinics to seven, including our newest specialty clinics: the Intellectual Property Clinic and the Community Financial Transactions Clinic.  Yet, we have only 70 spots each year with long waitlists, which means the school offers a clinical experience to only one-third of our 3L class.     

It is my personal hope that our new dean, Martin Brinkley, will commit his term to expanding experiential learning opportunities at UNC Law.  Year after year, I read the Clinical Programs course evaluations, and students consistently say that the clinic experience is the very best that they've had during their three years of law school.  Year after year, I speak with employers in North Carolina and beyond, and they consistently say that they are looking to hire law school graduates who know their way around a courtroom, who have represented their own clients, and who have received intensive supervision and training from experienced lawyers who do not simultaneously carry their own caseloads, which is exactly what we provide.

Yes, the student-faculty ratio in clinics (8:1) is, by necessity, smaller than in many law school courses, which some have suggested makes this type of learning too expensive, but even the American Bar Association (ABA) has recognized that experiential learning is an essential part of legal education.  In the fall of 2016, with the incoming 1L class, the ABA has required that each student take a minimum of six credits of experiential courses before graduation.  At UNC, this would be satisfied by a single clinic and its companion course, such as the Youth Justice Clinic and the criminal lawyering process class. Surely, this is not too much to offer to each of our students, who have invested significant time, money, and energy in their graduate education...?        

In the meantime, I am proud of what we have accomplished at a public institution that has been under fire in recent years from the state legislature and the UNC Board of Governors.  In the sections below, I share with you some of the many highlights of the fall semester in UNC Clinical Programs, including clinical programs events; case work developments; clinic alumni updates; and clinic faculty scholarship and service.

Please enjoy this semester’s newsletter.

Tamar Birckhead
Director of Clinical Programs

Programs Events

Fall 2015 All-Clinic Rounds Session

On November 10, 2015, two groups of students presented at our All-Clinic Rounds Session.  Students from the Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic presented on a case involving a sheriff levy of a client's bank account to collect on a judgment, with no notice to the client.  Students from the Community Development Law Clinic presented on the creation of a tenant organization separate from but connected to a local social justice organization. 


Clinical Programs Community Education Presentation

clinic rounds
Susanna Wagar '16 presents on the collateral consequences of juvenile adjudications.

On November 9, 2015, students from the Youth Justice Clinic, Civil Legal Assistance Clinic, Immigration Clinic, and Domestic Violence Clinic joined together to present a four hour educational program for the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools Services Staff.


Casework News

Community Development Law Clinic: Case Work Developments

Prof. David Neal

This semester while Prof. Tom Kelly was teaching in South Africa, we had the good fortune to have David Neal, UNC Law '01 and staff attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, teach with us in the Community Development Law Clinic (CDL).


Youth Justice Clinic

October, 2015

While juvenile crime is down statewide, the number of delinquency cases that stem from in-school misbehavior has largely remained steady. These cases are typically low-level misdemeanors and frequently involve students with unmet educational needs and diagnosed disabilities. Even for delinquency cases that do not occur in schools, academic difficulty and school exclusion are common occurrences for young clients. Because of the link between delinquency and struggles in schools, the Youth Justice Clinic began offering representation in long-term suspension cases two years ago, in addition to our long-standing work in juvenile court. Two success stories from this year show the importance of providing this comprehensive representation wherever possible.


December, 2015

Clinic student Haley Phillips, with assistance from her clinic student partner Brian Kettmer, recently negotiated a settlement in a long-term school suspension case.


Civil Legal Assistance Clinic Students Provide Legal Advice to Durham, NC Community Group

Two of Prof. Erika Wilson's Civil Legal Assistance Clinic students, 3Ls Shana Moore and Christopher Byrd provided legal advice for a community group called Durham Neighbors United (“DNU”)

Erika K. Wilson


Programs Updates

UNC Law–CUNY Law School Clinical Faculty Exchange

CUNY School of Law
CUNY School of Law

In 2014, we initiated a Clinical Faculty Exchange Program with CUNY Law School, which has one of the most highly regarded clinical programs in the U.S. The concept of the exchange program is to focus on clinical pedagogy, including but not limited to, teaching collaboration; clinic design; creating and facilitating rounds sessions; balancing legal representation with policy advocacy; teaching cross-cultural lawyering; encouraging reflection among students; and creating appropriate evaluation criteria.


Clinical Programs Celebrate 35 Years of Training Students and Assisting Clients

Kaci Bishop
Prof. Kaci Bishop

As a student at UNC School of Law, Kaci Bishop ’04 knew she wanted to work with indigent clients. Drawn to humanitarian immigration law, her involvement in the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic, which then included immigration cases, was all the affirmation she needed to know she was pursuing her true passion.


UNC Clinical Programs Drafts Mission Statement

Mission Statement

One of the goals of our annual Clinical Faculty Retreat this past August was to begin the process of drafting a mission statement, which we continued to work on during subsequent meetings and approved unanimously in mid-October. We are excited to share it here!


Clinical Faculty Initiatives During Fall 2015

Clinical Programs

We have had a busy semester, as always, in the Clinical Programs, but the faculty has made time to work together to improve our teaching and to strengthen the infrastructure of the program as a whole.


Casey Smith, MSW intern, Reflects on Fall Semester in UNC Clinical Programs

Casey Smith, this year's MSW fieldwork intern from NC State School of Social Work, is completing her first semester in the UNC Clinical Programs. Casey is a second year graduate student who has provided invaluable assistance to UNC Law students as well as our clinic clients. She shares her thoughts in a blog post about her work thus far.


Susy Espinoza: New Clinic Program Assistant

Susy Espinoza
Susy Espinoza

The Clinical Programs recently welcomed a new Program Assistant

Azucena “Susy” Espinoza is the newest member to join the UNC School of Law Clinical Programs team. Susy started in June 2015 and is one of our two Bilingual Program Assistants. She is a fluent Spanish speaker who assists with interpreting and translating as well as with the daily administrative demands of the Clinic.


Clinical Programs Volunteer Interpreter Orientation and Luncheon

On October 2, 2015, the Clinical Programs held an Orientation and Luncheon for the Clinic Volunteer Interpreters and Translators.


Alumni Update

Lindsey Spain, Class of 2012

Matthew Herr We recently heard the following from Lindsey Spain, class of 2012:

I was elected to the Durham County Bar Association’s Board of Directors in 2014, and I knew that I wanted my time on the Board to be about more than just showing up to luncheons and networking with fellow attorneys. I believe that, as attorneys, we owe it to our local community to give back and help make our communities stronger.


Faculty Awards

Prof. Tamar Birckhead Article on "The New Peonage"

Tamar Birckhead Prof. Tamar Birckhead, who teaches in the Youth Justice Clinic and is the Director of Clinical Programs, has published an article on "The New Peonage," in the Washington and Lee Law Review.


Prof. Kathryn Sabbeth Receives Tenure

Kathryn Sabbeth We are thrilled to announce that Prof. Kathryn Sabbeth, who began teaching at UNC Law in 2009, earned tenure this past July.


Prof. Barbara Fedders Presents Her Scholarship and Conducts a Training for Judges

Barbara Fedders This semester Prof. Barbara Fedders has presented her latest article, "That School is for Thugs: Alternative Education and the Struggle for Educational Equity," and has also conducted a training for North Carolina district court judges.


Prof. Erika Wilson's New Scholarship

Erika Wilson Professor Erika K. Wilson of the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic has two new law review articles forthcoming and has recently presented the draft of a third.


Prof. Tom Kelley's Article on North Carolina Charter Schools is Highlighted

Tom Kelley Professor Tom Kelley of the Community Development Law Clinic recently published an article in the North Carolina Law Review on "North Carolina Charter Schools' (Non-?) Compliance with State and Federal Nonprofit Law." It was highlighted in a post on PrawfsBlawg in November.


Prof. Tamar Birckhead Publishes Op-Ed on the Prosecution of Children Who Are Delinquent by Reason of Poverty

Tamar Birckhead Prof. Tamar Birckhead, who teaches in the Youth Justice Clinic and is the Director of Clinical Programs, recently published an op-ed in the News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), on the prosecution of children who are delinquent by reason of poverty..


Faculty Service

Prof. Beth Posner Serves as Faculty for ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence's Litigation Institute

Beth PosnerIn October, Professor Beth Posner was faculty for the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence's Litigation Institute: Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Representation, a two-day, intensive and interactive training in which she, along with other faculty experts, taught new and seasoned attorneys to more effectively and holistically represent survivors of intimate partner sexual violence in a range of civil legal matters.


Prof. Tom Kelley Travels to Rwanda and South Africa with UNC Students

Prof. Kelley with UNC undergraduates in Lesotho With the exception of a few days in August, I have not been on U.S. soil since early June.


Prof. Barbara Fedders Attends Global Alliance for Justice Education Conference

Barbara Fedders From July 22-25, I joined 350 delegates from around the world at Anadolu University in Eskisehir, Turkey, for the 8th Annual Global Alliance for Justice Education (GAJE) conference, “Justice Education for a Just Society.”


To learn more about UNC Law Clinical Programs, please visit You may also contact Professor Tamar Birckhead, Director of Clinical Programs, at Join our Facebook page Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Instagram Follow us on iTunes U Follow us on Vimeo Follow us on Google+

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