Minnesota Law has a great number of clinics focused on issues of economic justice. Students in economic justice clinics represent individuals who experience marketplace fraud or unfair treatment by employers or insurers and help people who need assistance to resolve financial distress. Across these clinics, students appear in federal and state courts.
This clinic is grounded in the development of practical skills necessary to effectively advise and represent individuals in serious financial difficulty. The Bankruptcy Clinic includes a classroom component, which prepares the students to counsel clients about consumer bankruptcy, introduces important portions of the Bankruptcy Code and Rules, and discusses the students’ cases in a group setting. This classroom component also features guest speakers, such as bankruptcy judges, panel trustees, and location practitioners. Students will receive training from Bankruptcy Court staff in electronic filing.
Students in the Bankruptcy Clinic can expect to be advising clients of their options, communicating with their creditors, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, and representing clients at the meeting of creditors. Students may also have the opportunity to represent clients in adversary proceedings, including discovery and trial as well as settlement negotiations with both creditors and the U.S. Trustee. Occasionally, students represent individual creditors as well.
A student perspective: “One of the highlights of this clinic is the opportunity to develop negotiating skills as students often negotiate with creditors on behalf of debtor clients. This clinic really teaches students how to put “common sense” back into the study of law. Bankruptcy law really is an umbrella for the practice of every area of law, and this clinic allows students to learn not only bankruptcy law, but also other business related law. This clinic also provides excellent experience whether the student is interested in trial work or transactional work”
Additional Commitments: Successful completion of the course includes attendance at a training session at the Clerk's office to learn the basics of electronic filing. The training session will be scheduled on a class day, but at an earlier time to accommodate the Court staff. If the scheduled time conflicts with other classes, the court routinely schedules training sessions that you may attend in place of the session specifically scheduled for this class.
What to expect when working on cases and with clients: Typically students will have 2-3 clients assigned to them throughout the year. Part of the final assignment will be to submit your actual time sheets at the end of each semester containing a statement of time spent on client work and a detailed description of the work performed.
The Consumer Protection Clinic represents individuals who are victims of marketplace fraud or who have disputes regarding consumer credit, debt collection, motor vehicle fraud, predatory lending or similar matters. The Clinic also assists legislators, regulators, and advocacy groups in policy matters, such as drafting consumer protection legislation. The Clinic participates in impact legislation by initiating and acting as co-counsel in class action or related matters.
Additional Commitments: None
What to expect when working on cases and with clients: Students typically will work on at least 2 individual client cases and at least 1 policy or impact litigation project, with workload composition adjusted for individual student interest. Student attorneys meet with clients, develop case facts, conduct legal research on consumer protection laws that may apply to a client’s case, and engage in federal and state court litigation.
Examples of cases/projects include the following:
- Represented homeowner with predatory mortgage loan in federal district court and successfully rescinded the loan under the Truth in Lending Act.
- A team of three students drafted legislation amending the payday lending statute in Minnesota, and testified before Minnesota House and Senate committees hearing the legislation.
- Prevailed on summary judgment in issue of first impression under the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act, Hagen v. Messerli & Kramer, 85 F.Supp.3d 1028 (2015) (and awarding $23,000 in attorney’s fees).
- Developed complaint and served as co-counsel in class action case alleging deception in computer pricing. Obtained refunds of over $2 million to approximately 40,000 consumers, Final Approval Order, Ponce v. Lenovo, No.16-1000 (D.Minn. 1/8/18).
The Employment Law Clinic provides student attorneys with a unique look at both sides of the employment relationship through litigation representation of individual employees and transactional counseling of nonprofit employers.
Student attorneys are introduced to the employee's perspective through litigating unemployment insurance (UI) appeals. These appeals require full representation, including client interviewing, counseling, preparation and execution of direct and cross examination, as well as closing statements. Student attorneys interface with the DEED website on behalf of the client, represent the client in the telephonic appeal hearing, and manage every aspect of the lawyer/client relationship with the assistance of a supervising attorney well-versed in the management of these cases.
Student attorneys are introduced to the employer's perspective through counseling and representation of nonprofit employers. This representation involves transactional-type interviewing so that student attorneys may understand their clients' workforce, employment practices, compliance with federal and state regulations applicable to the workplace, and potential areas of legal risk. Student attorneys then may audit and revise policies and employment handbooks; review and/or draft independent-contractor or employment agreements; assess and advise on compliance with employment-eligibility recordkeeping regulations; and identify, assess, and advise on employment issues unique to each employer.
- On average, three client meetings are held in each UI case. These are to conduct the client intake and review client documents; to prepare the client for testimony; and to represent the client in the UI appeal by phone.
- Student lawyers will meet at least twice with nonprofit employer clients, for client intake and to deliver work product. Student lawyers also may visit the workplace in order to conduct audits as needed.
What to expect when working on cases and with clients:
- Students will take on an average of 1-2 UI cases. Students will meet with clients in person, on the phone, and will correspond with them. Students will appear before unemployment law judges by phone.
- Students will work in two- or three-person teams when counseling nonprofit employers, whose needs regarding employment laws and regulations will likely vary widely from client to client. Students will need to identify areas of greatest risk and work to mitigate risk and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Targeted legal research and familiarity with reliable secondary sources will be very helpful.
This clinic is grounded in the development of practical skills necessary to effectively represent low income tenants facing eviction, housing repair problems, utility shutoff and lockouts, and eviction cases in their rental history in Hennepin County Housing Court.
The two hour classroom component includes interviewing, clinic computer network training, professional responsibility, substantive housing law topics concerning the types of actions handled in the clinic, and case simulations in which students participate in interviewing, drafting, motion practice, trial and negotiation simulations patterned after real housing cases.
Housing Law Clinic cases provide a unique opportunity to handle cases from beginning to end. Housing Court cases are very active cases, which move faster than many other types of civil litigation. Student attorneys may experience interviewing, investigation, drafting pleadings, discovery, motion and trial practice and appeals. Often students obtain final decisions or settlements in cases that they started. Some cases may involve the delicate act of advising a client that the client does not have a good case.
• Weekly staff meeting and round table discussion with other students to discuss issues and cases.
• Ongoing meetings with supervising attorney in preparation for and representation in housing
What to expect when working on cases and with clients:
Each student may handle 2-5 cases during the semester. Students will meet with clients in person, on the phone and correspond with them. Clients of this clinic will be low income clients faced with various housing issues corresponding with the tight rental market and an aging housing stock, which precludes them from finding safe, decent and affordable rental housing.
The Insurance Law Clinic offers 2Ls and 3Ls an excellent opportunity to learn litigation skills and insurance basics while effectively and confidently representing individuals during all stages of an insurance claim and/or dispute with an insurer.
Work will include investigating, preparing and tendering an insurance claim, writing demand letters to insurers, drafting litigation pleadings, including complaints, discovery documents, motions, briefs, settlement agreements and other court documents, dealing with clients and opposing counsel, and courtroom litigation and ADR.
The Clinic’s coverage cases deal with many types of insurance, including: auto liability, homeowner’s property, health and disability, life, and commercial general liability (CGL).
Through classroom instruction and case supervision, students will learn the basic concepts and legal principles involved in property and liability insurance, and they will gain experience in a broad range of practice skills, such as negotiation, legal writing, case investigation, mediation, client counseling and state court practice.
Additional Commitments: Students typically handle 3-4 cases a year and work in teams of two student attorneys. Student attorney teams may change throughout the year, depending on which students decide to take on new cases. In addition to weekly class meetings, students can expect to work 5-10 hours per week on their cases.
What to expect when working on cases and with clients: Student attorneys will meet with clients in person, on the phone, and are expected to correspond with clients in a timely manner. Clients of the Insurance Law Clinic are usually low-income individuals involved in insurance disputes, including their health, auto, or homeowner’s insurer. Student attorneys are encouraged to think critically and creatively in finding solutions to their clients’ legal issues.
This clinic is grounded in the development of practical skills necessary to effectively represent low-income taxpayers who have a tax controversy. Tax cases generally include audits of tax returns, filing and trying cases in Tax Court and Federal District Court, and bringing taxpayers into collection compliance. Since the Earned Income Credit and refundable Child Tax credits are now the major form of public welfare benefits for low-income workers and, thus, often an important component of tax controversies, the Clinic offers opportunities to work on these issues with clients. Clinic students do not generally prepare tax returns unless it is required to resolve the controversy.
Clinic students participate in a clinic seminar during the fall semester, which provides training in clinic office procedures, lawyering skills and professional responsibility with an emphasis on those relevant to tax practice, and tax procedure and law relevant to representing low-income taxpayers. Guest speakers from the IRS, MN Department of Revenue and practicing bar provide useful information about the practice of tax law.
Students who would benefit from enrollment include those that have an interest in tax, business or bankruptcy practice who will find it helpful to understand the workings of the tax administration authority (i.e. IRS/MNDOR); who are interested in pursuing a career in public interest law; who have an interest in administrative and statutory law practice; have an interest in assisting immigrants meet the tax requirements for citizenship; or students who just want to make a difference in the lives of poor, immigrant or disabled individuals.
- Weekly status meetings with Professor Smith and the student director assigned to any particular case are required throughout the entire academic year.
- Clinic students participate in community education and outreach events during the spring semester.
What to expect when working on cases and with clients: Students will take on an average 3-5 client cases. Students will meet with clients in person, on the phone and correspond with them. Clients in the Tax Clinic may have English as their second language.