It has become almost cliché to note that the legal profession is in a time of change. But cliché or not, it is true. And as our profession evolves, law schools must adapt to help students develop skills both in and out of the classroom.
At the IU McKinney School of Law, we make a special effort to support our students by partnering with advocates in the community. Allow me to share a few examples.
The Indianapolis law firm Cohen & Malad recently endowed a fellowship at the law school, creating a scholarship for a student with an interest in consumer law. Each year, the Cohen & Malad Fellow does pro bono work and also organizes a public academic program related to the area of consumer law. Justin McGriffen, ’16, was the first student to earn the fellowship. Last spring, he worked with Indiana Legal Services and put together a highly successful symposium entitled “Judicial and Legal Perspectives on Consumer Protection.” Justin did a great job and enjoyed the experience.
“From a policy perspective, consumer law fascinates me because it seeks to strike a balance between establishing basic consumer rights while still maintaining a legal landscape conducive to economic growth,” Justin said. “This balance is struck by establishing standards of fair trade, competition and accurate information in the marketplace.”
Another example of a community partnership serving students is our new program with Child Advocates. McKinney alums Cindy Booth, ’91, who directs the organization, and Carey Haley Wong, ’02, who serves as chief counsel there, approached the school about a year ago, along with Nicole Goodson of Disability Legal Services Indiana. The attorneys inquired about the possibility of helping students in our schools’ clinic. As a result of that outreach, eight McKinney students were sworn in as guardians ad litem by Marion County Juvenile Court Magistrate Judge Jennifer Hubbart, ’94, this fall, and are working with professor Carrie Hagan and Child Advocates to protect the best interests of children who suffer abuse or neglect. “It’s great to get out of the classroom and into the real world,” said Julie DeVoe, who is in her second year of studies at IU McKinney. “I was excited about an opportunity to work directly with children and their families in a role that serves such an important purpose.”
Our school’s Office of Professional Development also is ramping up efforts to partner with the community in helping students find future career paths. Our OPD organizes informal monthly gatherings where students and alumni can connect. In addition, the office offers opportunities for students to gain practical experience through a formal pro bono program, assisting not-for-profit entities that provide legal assistance to those who can’t afford the services of an attorney. Many of our students are deeply committed to pro bono service. In fact, the Indianapolis Bar Association recently awarded its annual Law Student Pro Bono Award to Ji Hyun (Jennifer) Kim, a third-year student, who began donating her time during her second semester of law school and has logged more than 500 hours of pro bono service to date. “I wanted to give back to the community by donating my hours so I started volunteering,” Jennifer said. “I learned a lot while volunteering so it helped me gain experience as well.”
More broadly, the law school is committed to overall student wellness. Many of these efforts are organized by the IU McKinney Office of Student Affairs, and I am proud that the Indiana State Bar Association has recognized the office’s work for two consecutive years by awarding our school the Erik Chickedantz Wellness Award. Our Student Affairs Office organizes sessions on financial wellness, publishes a monthly e-newsletter for students and offers counsel on managing stressful situations. Our school’s work in this area also extends nationally. Professor Allison Martin is co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs’ Law School Assistance Committee and, this summer, helped produce a video aimed at advancing a dialogue with law students across the country about combatting substance abuse, addiction and mental health issues in the legal profession.
As is often the case, I need to end my column by noting that I could go on. But suffice it to say that I am proud of our efforts to support future legal professionals at the IU McKinney School of Law. And I am grateful for the support we receive from the Indianapolis legal community in our efforts. My best wishes to all for a peaceful holiday season.•
Note: This story has been corrected.
Andrew R. Klein is the dean and the Paul E. Beam Professor of Law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. The opinions expressed are those of the author.