Law School partners with VLAS to allow students to represent real-life clients
- Third-year Liberty School of Law students can represent clients who need financial assistance in partnership with the Virginia Legal Aid Society.
- Students can also participate in the Law School’s Prosecution Clinic and Constitutional Litigation Clinic for real-world experience.
A new partnership between the Liberty University School of Law and Virginia Legal Aid Society is bringing hands-on experience of representing clients lacking financial resources to four third-year law students for the next two years.
B. Keith Faulkner, dean of the Liberty School of Law, began working with the executive director of VLAS, David Neumeyer, in December 2015. After Neumeyer and his team wrote the grant with letters of support, the law school was able to secure the funding for two years.
Taylor Noonan, Christina Wright, Johnna Chick and Aaron Minguez were chosen after a competitive application process to partner with VLAS and practice law with courtroom supervision. These students are working with civil cases to represent clients with limited financial resources.
Wright said while law school demands a different amount of attention, it is incredible to represent people in court at such a young age.
“I think it’s wonderful to be helping people who might not be able to get the legal representation that they need without a program like this,” Wright said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to represent people in court at all when you haven’t finished law school.”
While there are multiples reasons she is pursuing law, Wright said meeting the clients is her favorite part of the entire program.
“It’s really great to finally be able to put a face to that name and realize this isn’t just a case you’re reading about in a book,” Wright said. “This is someone’s actual life and a real human being (who) you’re dealing with.”
Faulkner said while there is a classroom component to the clinic, there is a difference between having simulated practice and having real life clients with real problems sitting in front of you.
“Our entire curriculum here at Liberty Law School is based on preparing folks to go out and get practical legal skills,” Faulkner said.
Growing up, Noonan said she has always had a desire to be a voice for the voiceless and serve others at the same time.
“I’ve always had a heart for those who did not have a voice,” Noonan said. “I really wanted to pursue something that I could honor God with, and law just seemed like a viable and effectual way to do that.”
Like Wright, Noonan said seeing the faces of people that need help gives her a sense of encouragement as she balances the various factors in life.
“It’s really easy to get lost in the books and the cases and the people that you’ve never seen,” Noonan said. “Actually seeing a person who you’re helping is awesome.”
Along with the VLAS external clinic, Liberty School of Law offers two other clinics for law school students: the prosecution clinic and the constitutional clinic.
“The prosecution clinic practices with local commonwealth’s attorneys and provide training and education for students who are interested in becoming prosecutors,” Faulkner said. “Constitutional law clinic deals with religious freedom and first amendment issues.”
“We’re very excited about growing our clinical opportunities to be yet another way that these students can get real life practical training.”
The funding is secured for two years, but Faulkner said he anticipates an ongoing partnership with VLAS.
“It’s our sincere hope to extend that as long as possible, Faulkner said. “I would anticipate that we would extend this partnership beyond that.”
Faulkner said this partnership, along with the clinics, is a great testing ground to experience the career while still learning without having full responsibility.
“There’s a super heightened expectation for these students and a lot of responsibility on them, Faulkner said. “These students are ready to meet that challenge; they’re some of our best.”