When I walked into the Juvenile Justice Clinic at the start of the spring semester, I was excited for a change in my learning experience as a law student. I had grown accustomed to the classroom experience and was anticipating gaining an understanding of the judicial process from a hands-on perspective. To me, participating in the Juvenile Justice Clinic and working with the Public Defender’s Unit was an opportunity to learn the administrative processes of not just the courtroom but how each judge prefers to run their respective courts.
My participation in the Immigrants’ Rights/International Human Rights Clinic was by far my most memorable experience in law school. Professor Farrin Anello assigned my partner and I to a time-sensitive case. The client was a young woman who recently fled Guatemala and had entered the United States without a visa. After being apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, she was sent to Delaney Hall Detention Center right here in Newark, where she was being held when we met her. Her bond hearing was rapidly approaching, and Catholic Charities brought her case to the attention of the Center for Social Justice. After reviewing the documents from our client’s initial interview with an asylum officer, we believed that she had a strong domestic violence-based asylum claim.
In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a public letter while he was imprisoned in Birmingham jail. In it, he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Of course I’d heard this quote many times throughout my life, but I suppose in all honesty it affected me in the way most grandiose platitudes did: not much. We all innately feel that injustice cannot be tolerated, however, until injustice finds its way into our day-to-day lives, we are hard-pressed to find the motivation to take action, or the ability to comprehend what it truly means to face injustice.
Seton Hall’s first year curriculum includes a class that is not found at many other law schools. It is called Introduction to Lawyering, and it is broadly ambitious. The course introduces students to the core skills, values, and professional habits that are integral to lawyering across many areas of practice. Fundamentally, the course is grounded in the practical experience of real lawyers. It is modeled on what real lawyers do. Seton Hall used to offer a class that is more typically offered at law schools across the country – Legal Research and Writing. So how does Introduction to Lawyering differ from Legal Research and Writing and why did we make this change?
Well, it’s that time of year again. With the holiday season comes law school exams, and the anxiety that inevitably comes along with that. It is important, however, not to let stress carry you away. You have worked hard all term. Think of exams not as a trial but as a chance to demonstrate your mastery, to show your professors just how much you know about Contracts, Civil Procedure or whatever else has filled your brain over the last few months.
It seems appropriate to title this post with questions because questions are the heart of the so-called “Socratic method,” which is the distinguishing characteristic of law school instruction. Or at least it used to be.