NIU College of Law launches new legal clinic
in partnership with Aurora homeless shelter
April 3, 2013
DeKalb, Ill.--Northern Illinois University College of Law will open a free legal clinic this fall in Aurora, focusing on legal issues that may contribute to health problems in the area’s indigent population. NIU Law will partner with both Hesed House - a comprehensive homeless resource center in Aurora that will house the clinic - and Aunt Martha’s Health Center.
The new NIU College of Law/Hesed House Community Law Center is a legal-medical partnership clinic that will feature teams consisting of a lawyer and law students, medical professionals and social workers who together will address the legal, medical, and social needs of its clients. Aunt Martha’s Health Center will open a health facility at Hesed House this summer, adjacent to NIU’s new legal clinic.
“The issues facing homeless individuals and families are multifaceted, and increasingly demand an integrated approach,” said Anita Maddali, director of clinics and associate professor at NIU’s College of Law. “Our new clinic will focus on legal issues that may be hampering the health of clients such as inadequate or no housing, malnourishment, or lack of financial benefits, issues that are traditionally beyond the scope of medical practitioners.”
Maddali anticipates that most of the clinic’s cases will focus on traditional poverty law issues such as housing, public benefits, special education and family law. Initially, the clinic’s legal team will consist of one attorney/clinical professor and five law students.
The clinic will open in September, but “we will spend the first few months educating our students in the nuances of opening such a clinic,” said Maddali. The clinic will begin taking clients in January 2014.
“Homeless individuals often struggle with a myriad of issues, including medical and legal ones. It is really exciting to partner with NIU College of Law faculty and students to address some of the underlying causes of homelessness,” said Ryan Dowd, Executive Director of Hesed House and a 2003 graduate of Northern Illinois University College of Law.
“The addition of a new, innovative clinic in the heart of the Aurora area further reinforces NIU’s commitment to community engagement, said Jennifer Rosato, Dean of NIU’s College of Law. “Through such partnerships, the school has the opportunity to model to its law students the value of using one’s legal skills to meaningfully assist members of their community,” she continued. “In addition, the clinical setting provides an invaluable experiential learning opportunity that helps prepare our students to practice.”
Law students in the NIU Law legal clinic will be involved in interviewing and counseling clients, drafting legal documents, handling discovery and performing legal research. They will also focus on professional skills such as managing and organizing cases, resolving ethical dilemmas, and interacting with professionals, as well as advocating on behalf of a client.
“In addition, said Maddali, “students will work in an interdisciplinary environment which will give them the opportunity to work with professionals outside of the law, as well as gain a broader understanding of how legal issues intersect with other areas.”
The new NIU College of Law/Hesed House Community Law Center is the school’s third legal clinic. In addition, NIU Law currently has two clinical programs housed in its Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic in Rockford, Illinois. The Civil Justice Clinic has served more than 2,000 clients in the Winnebago County area since its founding in 2001, and provided opportunities for over 300 NIU law students to work cases in the areas of elder law, domestic abuse, adult criminal, and mediation. In 2011, the Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic expanded its program to include a Juvenile Justice Clinic.
Hesed House is the second largest shelter for homeless individuals and their families in the State of Illinois, and the largest such shelter outside of Chicago. Aunt Martha’s Health Center is a health care and social service agency that has earned a national reputation for meeting the needs of children, youth and families.
As the only public law school in Northern Illinois, NIU Law has been named a top law school nationally for diversity, value, and careers in public interest/government service. NIU Law provides unique opportunities for its students, beginning with its highly accomplished faculty who are personally invested in the success of every student throughout their professional lives. Many alumni serve as public interest attorneys, prosecutors, defenders, elected officials, and judges, but graduates are equally prepared for careers as solo practitioners or lawyers in multinational law firms.
For more information on NIU College of Law/Hesed House Community Law Center, contact Anita Maddali at 815.753.0207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Coverage of the launching of the Center can be found in the Chicago Tribune local Aurora edition and the Oswego Patch.
For more information, contact:
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