Clinical Programs Newsletter

Clinical Programs Newsletter: Saturday, May 30, 2015


Tamar Birckhead It's hard to believe that we are at the end of another academic year, but it is indeed true; it's even harder to believe, for me at least, that I'm finishing my 11th year at UNC Law as a faculty member in our clinical programs and my second as clinic director, but the clichés about the passage of time are also true -- it speeds up with age (and even more with middle age!). In any event, I am quite proud of the changes that we have brought to UNC's clinical programs this past year and delighted to share them with you in this format (another new innovation!).

For instance, we hosted our first MSW student from NC State University, Jason Tuell, who completed his fieldwork with us this past academic year. Jason dedicated 24 hours each week to performing bio-psychosocial assessments of our clients, reviewing and summarizing their school and medical records, and providing referrals for services. Jason worked mainly with students and their clients and families in the Youth Justice Clinic but also consulted with students from other clinics, including Immigration, Consumer Financial Transactions, and Civil Legal Assistance. During the course of the year, Jason developed several important documents that we will use going forward in our role as a field placement site for the NC State School of Social Work, including a Policy Regarding Interdisciplinary Collaboration between Law and Social Work Students and Professionals; Role and Functions of the MSW Student Working in the UNC Youth Justice Clinic; and a Disclosure and Client Consent to Social Work Services for Youth Justice Clinic Clients. Jason also presented to our Criminal Lawyering Process class on trauma-informed care, helping our students develop an understanding of what trauma looks like within the models of child development and neuro-physiological threat response. In short, I've ended the year more aware than ever of how critical it is to have social work personnel on site to help us serve our clients; our law students learned invaluable lessons about the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, and as a result we all elevated the quality of our advocacy.

In addition, with the support of the Dean's Office and the Law School IT Department, we were able to adapt two of our clinic conference rooms to accommodate video recording of client interviews and meetings, allowing faculty supervisors to observe their students in real time from the computer monitor in their own office (enabling them to watch but not impact the dynamic between student and client) as well as to review recordings of these meetings later with the student from any computer or laptop. This advancement was used extensively by the Immigration and Civil Legal Assistance Clinics and has been an important pedagogical tool for our clinical programs.

Other innovations included our Clinical Faculty Exchange Program with CUNY Law; a teach-in for students, faculty, and community members on race and police violence post-Ferguson; and a new Intellectual Property Clinic that will begin this fall. You may read about all of this as well as case work developments from each of our clinics; clinic alumni updates; clinic faculty scholarship and service; and clinical programs events in the sections below.

Please enjoy this semester’s newsletter.

Tamar Birckhead
Director of Clinical Programs

Programs Events

Fall Semester All-Clinic Rounds Session

Fall Semester All-Clinic Rounds Session
Will Alley presents his case from the Youth Justice Clinic

On November 12, 2014, UNC Clinical Programs held its second All-Clinic Rounds session, during which students and faculty from each of the five clinics gathered to discuss their current cases.


UNC Law Clinical Programs Co-Sponsors Full-Day Program: Police Violence in the Wake of Ferguson and Staten Island

UNC Law Clinical Programs coordinated a full-day program, "Police Violence in the Wake of Ferguson and Staten Island" with three separate panels and a keynote speaker to provide a forum for discussion of police violence and the legal system, the history and context of police brutality, and activism in the face of police violence. Panelists included academics, lawyers, journalists, and community activists.

The luncheon keynote speaker was Ms. Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The program took place on Friday, January 23, 2015, in room #5052 of UNC School of Law. It opened at 9 a.m. and closed at 3 p.m. and was co-sponsored by UNC Law Clinical Programs and the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

Our hope was that the program sparked meaningful conversation and helped inform our students and the community on the law and history related to the struggle for racial equality and justice in the United States.


Spring Semester All-Clinic Rounds Session

On March 4, 2015, UNC Clinical Programs held its fourth All-Clinic Rounds session, during which students and faculty from all of our clinics gathered to discuss their current cases.


UNC Law-CUNY Law School Clinical Faculty Exchange

Professor Donna Lee of CUNY Law School This spring we initiated a Clinical Faculty Exchange Program with CUNY Law School. The concept 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.

Professor Donna Lee [photo above] from CUNY Law School visited UNC Law on March 22-23, 2015, and in the fall a faculty member from UNC Clinical Programs will visit CUNY Law's Clinic.


Clinical Programs End-of-Year Celebration and CLEA Award Presentation

On April 9, 2015, faculty and students who participated in the clinical programs in 2014-15 gathered for a special luncheon to celebrate the end of another successful year.

Professor Kathryn Sabbeth then presented the Third Annual CLEA Outstanding Student Award to Andrea Solórzano, a student in the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic [pictured below]:

CLEA Outstanding Student Award 2015: Andrea Solorzano


Casework News

Intellectual Property Clinic has Successful Pilot Year

Devon White Professor Devon White, who taught the Intellectual Property Clinic in its pilot year, reports that she and her two clinic students assisted fifteen clients and have prepared:

  • 18 trademark availability opinions
  • 21 applications with a total of 25 claims
  • 8 responses to actions required by examiners


Civil Legal Assistance Clinic

The Civil Legal Assistance Clinic has had a busy and successful year with its litigation. Here are a just a few examples:

  • Students reached a favorable settlement in a Title VII case against a local business that had previously allowed sexual harassment to go uncorrected.
  • Students filed a lawsuit on behalf of a young mother whose security deposit was being unlawfully withheld by her landlord, and compelled the landlord to return the full deposit
  • Students represented a worker whose employer had fought to deny him employment security benefits. The employer claimed the worker had quit when in fact the company actually fired him. The students successfully represented their client in an appeals hearing and obtained full employment security benefits on his behalf.

Immigration Clinic

The Immigration Clinic, taught by Professor Beth Posner, took on approximately 15 new clients this year, mostly representing clients in U-Visa, Special Immigrant Status Cases, and DACA. We appeared in both Immigration and State Court proceedings, and our first SIJS client was granted status. In addition to client representation, students worked with attorneys throughout the state to petition the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission regarding judicial certification in U-Visa cases. Additional work included a meeting with local District Court judges to discuss county procedures for SIJS cases, and a screening of the film Sin Nombre, followed by a panel discussion about the journey minors take throughout Central America to come to the United States.

Community Development Law Clinic

During the 2014-2015 academic year, Professors Tom Kelley and Judith Wegner supervised ten third-year law students. The students represented twenty clients on a variety of legal matters. As has been the case in past years, these numbers do not reveal the full impact of the CDL Clinic’s work, since each of its clients provides services to numerous individuals and communities.


Youth Justice Clinic

This year the Youth Justice Clinic, taught by Professors Tamar Birckhead, Barbara Fedders, and Kellie Mannette (fall semester), handled over 100 cases from the juvenile courts in Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties. Several of our clients had multiple, unrelated cases during the course of the academic year.


Programs Updates

UNC Law Faculty Votes to Approve Intellectual Property Clinic for 2015-16

On December 4, 2014, the UNC Law Faculty voted to approve the establishment of a new clinic, the Intellectual Property Clinic, for 2015-16. The general subject matter of the clinic will be trademark and copyright practice. The two-semester, six-credit clinic will train students to be creative and effective advocates on behalf of clients who need to protect the words, symbols, names, images or designs that allow customers to easily identify and authenticate the source of a service or product. Much of the clinic’s work will involve representing independent non-profits, educational institutions, and small businesses before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.


Professor Laura Collins Britton of Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic is Relocating

It is with sadness for us but excitement for her that we announce that our talented colleague and good friend, Professor Laura Collins Britton, is leaving UNC Law after three years to relocate to Chicago with her family. She is hoping to continue to teach in a clinical capacity at one of the law schools in the area, and we can attest to the fact that any of them would be very lucky to have her.


Alumni Update

Matthew Herr, Class of 2014

Matthew Herr We recently heard the following from Matthew Herr, who graduated in 2014 after serving in the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic for the 2013-14 academic year:

Serving in the UNC Civil Legal Assistance Clinic was one of the most meaningful things I did during law school. Although the ability to “think like a lawyer” is necessary to passing law school exams, the abilities to draft effective – and properly formatted – legal documents, interact with clients and opposing counsel, and think strategically about how best to serve your client’s needs are necessary to the practice of law. Under the thoughtful guidance of the Civil Clinic faculty, I received training on these skills in spades. Serving in the Civil Clinic also reminded me why I went to law school in the first place. Whether it was ensuring that a child with a disability would stay in school, or helping a wrongfully evicted client recover his possessions (including his family’s Christmas decorations, right before the holidays), seeing the impact I could have on other peoples’ lives had an equally strong impact on me. Currently, I serve as a law clerk to Chief Judge Linda McGee at the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and my experiences from the Civil Clinic are a daily reminder that behind every brief that comes across my desk, there is a person or group of people relying on the law to bring order to an often chaotic world. As I continue to grow professionally, I have no doubt that the invaluable lessons I learned in the Civil Clinic will stay with me and make me a better lawyer.

Sarah Colwell: Class of 2014

Sarah ColwellWe recently heard from Sarah Colwell, who graduated in 2014 after serving as a student advocate in the Immigration Clinic for the 2013-14 academic year:

I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works Employment Opportunity Legal Corps Fellow with Legal Aid of North Carolina's Second Chance Employment and Housing Project. As a fellow, I provide reentry services to individuals with prior justice involvement, focusing primarily on expunctions and certificates of relief. I also work with community organizations to build direct referral relationships. For example, much of my work to date has been focused on training domestic violence advocates on "victim-defendants," or domestic violence victims who became defendants in criminal cases as a result of their abusive relationships. Together, we craft practices that will allow those advocates to recognize victim-defendants among their clients and refer them to our project for assistance. We hope that this will help them both cut off any collateral consequences they may be suffering from as a result of their justice involvement and help in their recovery. Finally, I travel across the state to help with mobile legal clinics and community education events.

On a daily basis, I am reminded of how instrumental my clinical experience was in preparing me for practice. Though the transition from student to practicing attorney will always include some bumps, because of my time with the Immigration Law Clinic at UNC, I began my position with Legal Aid knowing that I was capable of interacting with clients in an intentional and meaningful way. Practically, Professor Beth Posner showed me the value in plotting a roadmap for each case, for setting personal deadlines, and for identifying the best evidence possible for client cases. However, she also showed me what it meant to put the client first in every step of the case including by using culturally sensitive interview techniques and by carefully protecting the client's own voice and story in any relevant documents. Instead of shying away from client interviews, I began work excited to get to know my clients and to take on community events that would let me demonstrate to the community how we could become meaningful partners and helpful advocates. I am grateful everyday to have had the opportunity to develop critical skills for my legal practice in a safe and challenging space and know that it has made a significant difference in the amount I have been able to accomplish during my first year of practice.

Emily Doll: Class of 2015

Emily Doll It is always heartening when our students express how the clinical experience has positively impacted them. Here is a recent note received from Emily Doll, who graduated this past May after participating in the Youth Justice Clinic during 2014-15. She was supervised by Professor Barbara Fedders.


I just dropped off my last closed clinic file in your box, which marks the end of my work with the clinic this semester and, actually, the end of law school for me as well. Since I know I was not able to fully express my thanks to you in our final meeting (likely due to my severe anxiety over a Secured Transactions exam looming just a few days ahead), I wanted to try again briefly now.

As you know, I've known I wanted to be a part of the Youth Justice Clinic since before I even came to UNC Law. UNC's clinical programs are one of the reasons I chose this law school, and because I have always wanted to be in a courtroom, I knew Youth Justice would be the best fit. My work with the clinic this semester has impacted me more than any other experience in law school. Not only have I gained more confidence in myself as an advocate both in and outside of the courtroom, but I connected with each of my client's in a way I did not expect, and which made me all the more determined to do the best work I could on their behalf.

I credit your mentorship, compassion, and willingness to listen to all my concerns and questions throughout this semester with the sense of pride I feel in reflecting on my clinic experience. You never made me feel at a disadvantage for starting my clinic work a semester later than most of my counterparts and consistently challenged me to seek out answers and develop creative, thoughtful arguments on my own before pointing out holes and weak spots in need of work. I can only hope that my supervisors and colleagues in the future will guide me in such a positive and productive way as you have.

I will take so much I learned this semester forward in my legal career, and THANK YOU for your role in making my experience great,

Emily Doll

Faculty Awards

Professor Tamar Birckhead Publishes Article on the Solitary Confinement of Children

Tamar BirckheadProfessor Tamar Birckhead, director of UNC Clinical Programs, has published an article in the Wake Forest Law Review that is the first to provide a comprehensive comparative analysis of the solitary confinement of youth in the United States, Europe, and across the globe.


Professor Kathryn Sabbeth Publishes New Scholarship and Presents at Venues Across the U.S.

Kathryn Sabbeth Professor Kathryn Sabbeth of the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic has two law review articles that are forthcoming:

  • The Prioritization of Criminal over Civil Counsel and the Discounted Danger of Private Power in the Florida State University Law Review
  • Zeal on Behalf of Vulnerable Clients in the North Carolina Law Review
In addition, she has presented her scholarship recently at several venues:
  • Valuing Caregivers' Rights at the Conference on Reframing the Welfare Queen: Feminist and Critical Race Theory Alternatives to Existing Poverty Discourse at the University of Southern California
  • The Prioritization of Criminal over Civil Counsel and the Discounted Danger of Private Power at the Faculty Speaker Series at Loyola Marymount University Law School as well as at the University of Illinois College of Law

Professor Barbara Fedders Publishes Scholarship on School-to-Prison Pipeline and on Advocacy for Girls and LGBT Youth

Barbara Fedders Professor Barbara Fedders, who teaches in the Youth Justice Clinic, has recently published important scholarship and commentary on the school-to-prison pipeline and has presented her work at law schools across the country. Read more...

Professor Fedders also has a chapter in a book published in May by NYU Press, A New Juvenile Justice System: Total Reform for a Broken System. Her chapter is entitled, "Building on Advocacy for Girls and LGBT Youth: A Foundation for Liberatory Laws, Policies, and Services for All Youth in the Juvenile Justice System. Edited by Nancy Dowd, with a Foreword by Charles Ogletree, the book aims at nothing less than a complete reform of the existing system: not minor change or even significant overhaul, but the replacement of the existing system with a different vision. Read more...

Professor Tamar Birckhead Recognized as "The Step-Ahead Scholar"

Professor Kevin Lapp of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles published the following on PrawfsBlawg this past March, recognizing Professor Tamar Birckhead as one of his "step-ahead scholars" or someone who not only had the same idea for a law review article but has already written a paper on the topic.


Faculty Service

Prof. Barbara Fedders Publishes Commentary on Anti-LGBT "Religious Freedom" Bill

On March 10, 2015, Professor Barbara Fedders published the following op-ed in the News & Observer (Raleigh), entitled, "Dressing Up Bigotry in NC as Religious Freedom."


Prof. Beth Posner Advises Student Group Honored with UNC Public Service Award

Caline Hou, 2L, and Professor Beth Posner

Professor Beth Posner, who teaches in UNC Clinical Programs, is the faculty advisor for UNC School of Law’s Domestic Violence Action Project (DVAP), which was awarded the Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award at UNC’s annual 2015 Public Service Awards April 7, 2015.


Prof. Beth Posner Participates in Numerous Pro Bono Programs and Activities

Throughout this past academic year, Professor Beth Posner, who teaches the Immigration Clinic and the Domestic Violence Clinic, participated in a variety of teaching, lawyer training, and other pro bono presentations and programs.


Director of UNC Law Clinical Programs Coordinates Statement from Faculty & Staff on the Status of Centers Housed at UNC Law

Professor Tamar Birckhead, Director of UNC Clinical Programs, coordinated the following Statement from UNC System Faculty and Staff in response to the recommendation by a working group of the UNC Board of Governors to close the UNC Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, and narrow the activities of the Center for Civil Rights.


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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