By: Kara Citarella
If you're looking for a hands-on experience that gives you personal interaction with clients, JustAdvice may be the thing for you. You sign up for the clinic and take the class for two semesters (worth 4 credits per semester). You can actually become a "Rule 16" (Maryland statute) student attorney, working under a supervising attorney to interview clients about their legal problems. JustAdvice holds 3-hour sessions at locations like the law school and Lexington Market, and when I was there yesterday, "business" was booming.
Clients are escorted in by a student, signed in, then given a free bag and some snacks as they wait for a student attorney to interview them. For intake, the student has a form with questions he or she asks the client, including reading a disclaimer that this is just legal advice from the attorney and the client is not actually retaining counsel. The questions themselves can take awhile, depending on the client, and it's always a good thing when the client brings in paperwork that relates to their legal issue.
Once the student lawyer has interviewed the client and taken any paperwork, the student will then leave the room and brief the attorney privately about the situation (some are repeat customers). The student lawyer sits in while the attorney discusses the issue with the client and gives whatever advice they think is appropriate. The fee is $10 for a half an hour, but it can be waived, depending on the circumstance. The client is given a copy of the notes from the interview for his or her record, and the attorneys are more than generous to provide a telephone number if a problem arises. Issues range from tax-related matters to expungements.
Personally, I thought it was great to see lawyers and judges take time out of their busy day to volunteer and help those who might not be able to afford official legal representation. If anyone has a desire for service and is curious to know what it's like "in the trenches", consider enrolling in this clinic and getting a headstart on learning the practice of law in the real world.