Svoboda 2010 Legal Scholars

St. Olaf College’s Svoboda Legal Scholars Program offers an opportunity for a select group of undergraduate students to perform intensive legal research and serve in a legal support role to social justice oriented clinics at the University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, and William Mitchell College of Law.

University of Minnesota

Emily Quinnell ’11
Sociology/Anthropology, Family Studies
Child Advocacy Clinic and Civil Practice Clinic, Intern

I have had an array of opportunities to attend court hearings, including a divorce case, a runaway/Child In Need Of Protective Services (CHIPS) case, and a third-party custody case.  I have also been able to research a number of different statutes and aspects of law, specifically family law, through the WestLaw database, and organize case files, in which I am able to read the legal documents involved and understand the details of each case.

My greatest contribution here at the clinic is being available for the student directors to assist them with anything they are working on.  Whether it has been retrieving documents from the government center, entering data for an upcoming case, going with them to court, or conducting research for their specific cases, I have been able to contribute to easing their work loads and have also learned a lot by asking questions.  The attorneys and student directors have all been extremely helpful, willing to teach, and inclusive throughout my whole experience.

During this experience, I gained a better understanding of how the legal system works as well as developed a respect for the determination of the lawyers at the clinic to serve underrepresented populations.  Prior to this internship, I was unsure of whether or not I saw law school in my future.  Through my experience here, I have decided that while I will not attend law school directly after my undergraduate career, I would like to pursue a law degree later on.  I have been strongly considering the idea of a joint-degree program; combining a J.D. with a master’s degree in social work.

Rebecca Fischer ’11
Political Science and Russian Area Studies
Law Clinics

At the University of Minnesota Law Clinics, I shadowed student attorneys and supervising attorneys in the Civil Practice and Child Advocacy Clinics. Over the course of the internship, I attended hearings and client meetings, conducted research on issues of jurisdiction, employment discrimination, child support, sexual offender registries, and juvenile detention. In addition, I helped a professor research how professional schools teach their students methods of dealing with clients who face discrimination based on race, disability, socio-economic class, or gender.

One of the best aspects of the internship was that I was shadowing four student attorneys who were all working in the same field, but on different types of cases. Working with all four student attorneys meant that I was able to contribute information I had learned on one case to another student attorney working on a similar case. For example, research I conducted on jurisdiction for one case concerning a dissolution was useful for another student attorney working on a child custody case.

I have been planning to attend law school for several years now. This internship really allowed me to learn not only about what it is like to practice law and what it is like to attend law school, but also gave me an opportunity to learn more about ways to participate in the legal field other than litigation such as teaching or research.

William Mitchell College of Law

Rachel KItze ’11
Majors: Political Science and Environmental Studies
Program: Community Development Clinic Intern, Reentry Clinic Intern

The Community Development Clinic at William Mitchell works primarily with nonprofits groups on issues related to neighborhood revitalization and local economic development.  My role was to research specific policies related to community development, and provide the non-profit groups with case studies of cities around the country that have implemented the policies and could serve as models for the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The Reentry Clinic works with women who are in the process of transitioning back into society after being incarcerated.  I assisted my supervisor with research for an academic paper related to collateral consequences, and in addition, I designed and created a newsletter for the clinic, for which I interviewed clients and student workers about their experience in the Reentry Clinic.

Working in the Community Development Clinic in particular gave me the opportunity to provide substantive and important research to clients on issues that are impacting communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul.  One of my more significant projects was to research Community Benefits Agreements, which are legally enforceable contracts that can be made between developers and community groups before large-scale development occurs.  I researched Community Benefits Agreements that have been implemented in cities across the country, and created a checklist of the benefits, such as affordable housing, environmental regulations, and employment opportunities, that community groups can ask for from developers.  This list will be put in a larger Community Benefits Agreements handbook for the Twin Cities.

My experience at William Mitchell has confirmed my plans to attend law school and has reaffirmed my commitment to public service and the pursuit of justice in the communities where I reside.  Although my interest lies primarily in environmental law and policy, working in the Community Development Clinic and the Reentry Clinic opened my eyes to new areas of law.  This experience, combined with my past experiences in the environmental non-profit arena, has helped me to understand more fully that social justice and environmental justice are inextricably linked.

St. Thomas University School of Law

Patrick Rolson ’11
 Political Science, History
Immigration & International Law, Interprofessional Legal Clinic

At St. Thomas, I routinely performed legal research in issues regarding immigration and asylum law, and helped in daily tasks around the small, yet highly motivated and disciplined clinic.  Furthermore, I was given the distinct opportunity to interview and converse with various clients and subsequently draft appropriate legal documents (i.e. Affidavits).

Although I certainly made the clinic life much easier for the permanent employees at St. Thomas, I believe my greatest impact was in convincing my peers and supervising attorneys that indeed an undergraduate student can not only be competent in a clinical setting, but actually make substantial contributions.

The experience taught me plenty about the field of immigration and international law.  However, on the whole it greatly changed my opinions and outlook regarding said field.  I learned that despite the necessity for quick and decisive actions, the immigration system basically mandates that any step or overall process be dragged out and take months, and in many cases years.  This was particularly difficult to grapple with when families where involved, many times separated for years on end.

Faculty Advisor: Doug Casson, PhD
Academic Department: Associate Professor of Political Science, St. Olaf & Pre-Law Advisor

“This fellowship is a wonderfully practical supplement to our more theoretically oriented curriculum. A liberal arts education at St. Olaf teaches students to think. The legal fellows program offers students a particularly rich context in which they can apply theses skills and challenge themselves while testing the waters of a legal career.”