Clinics Adapting to Today's Reality

When the coronavirus pandemic hit our region in mid-March everyone’s lives were turned upside down. In spite of personal challenges, Touro Law clinic faculty, staff, and students have risen to the occasion by providing support and advocacy on behalf of their clients.

Clinical Director Melina Healey stated, “We are trying to be kind to each other across the digital space that connects us and also to provide legal services that meet the evolving demands of remote representation. This includes conducting meetings with clients over teleconference or phone. We have developed strategies with our students for how to engage with our young and elderly clients over that platform. We also have had to be creative and careful about keeping these conversations confidential and building trusting client relationships.”

Many law offices and courts are moving towards virtual conferencing, hearings, mediations, and client counseling for an indefinite period of time. Our students are learning to operate in this new medium, which will set them apart when they graduate. Healey continued, “On April 27 we had an inter-clinic simulated jury trial via zoom litigated by students from the Education and Youth Justice and Senior Citizens Clinics. The students did a phenomenal job of adapting their tone, demeanor, and advocacy to this format despite its many challenges. Clinical education is unquestionably done best in person. We train students in cross-cultural communication, reading their audience, responding to non-verbal cues, conducting fact investigations, and many other things that are difficult to accomplish virtually. But we are working together to continue to ensure our students are prepared for the undoubtedly challenging work ahead to serve their clients in this new legal landscape.”

Students agree that this time is both challenging and rewarding. 3L Sydney Gross worked in the Education and Youth Justice Clinic. She stated, “I was extremely excited about this clinic as it is an area of law I am very passionate about. Before the pandemic, I was attending court weekly, as we were working with attorneys from the Children’s Law Bureau who handle the Juvenile Delinquency cases. While attending court, I was able to meet with clients and observe how the attorneys conduct client interviews. We also listened to see whether there would be any educational matters that we as a clinic could get involved with. Over the past few months, while we have not been in court physically, my clinic experience has not changed one bit. We have still been working and zooming with the attorneys at the Children’s Law Bureau and keeping in contact with our clients. We recently finished a simulated trial which took place over Zoom with our classmates in the Senior Citizens Law Clinic. Having a trial over Zoom was very interesting, and it was great practice for a possible way we might handle cases in the future.”

Check out the article in the ABA Journal titled, “For some law students, clinic work during COVID-19 feels more real than ever before,” featuring clinical programs across the country, including Touro Law.


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