Fall 2019 Law Offices Newsletter
Explore These Clinic-Related Opportunities
In addition to experiencing Chicago-Kent’s nationally well-known legal clinic—the C-K Law Group—students can take part in several related opportunities that further enhance their skills training and marketability. Here are a few:
- Intensive Clinic: Designed for experienced third-year students who have previously worked in the clinic and want to spend a semester practicing within the clinic for 12 credit hours.
- Criminal Litigation Certificate Program: Designed for students seeking to acquire a set of credentials that will enhance job prospects in the field of criminal law.
- Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution Certificate Program: Gain marketable civil litigation skills and become certified as a mediator.
- Labor and Employment Certificate Law Program: Provides students with theoretical education and skills training with experiential learning opportunities that offer interaction with leading academics and prominent legal practitioners. Our program was the only labor and employment certificate programs in the country to receive a grade of A+ in the winter 2019 issue of preLaw Magazine.
- Workplace Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution Certificate Program: A joint certificate program that allows students to market themselves to potential employers as well-versed in the highly complementary areas of litigation, ADR, and labor and employment law.
- And remember, first-year students are now eligible to take clinic in the spring semester.
Please visit the Legal Clinics homepage to find the details on these terrific options!
C-K Law Group Opens Immigration Law Clinic
In the fall 2019 semester, Chicago-Kent College of Law opened its new Immigration Law Clinic, focused on family-based immigration and removal defense.
This semester students are on working on multiple asylum cases, including cases involving clients from countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Venezuela, and Colombia. Students meet with clients, prepare their affidavits and applications, and represent them in defensive request for relief from deportation before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (immigration court). The EOIR Practice Manual allows law students to appear on the record and in court on behalf of clients under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
As the semester continues, students will be working on additional cases for other humanitarian immigration relief.
Clinical Lecturer Victoria Carmona is leading the Immigration Law Clinic. She joins Chicago-Kent from private practice, where she focused exclusively on immigration law.
Q&A with Clinical Professor Rhonda de Freitas
Your students seem to be particularly engaged in your practice. Why do think that is?
I think when someone decides they want to practice family law, they are “all in.” It’s not something most people want to do, so there’s an automatic level of commitment from the students who take it on. I once had a student say at the end of clinic, “Thanks so much for the experience, but I honestly don’t think I can do this type of law.” She happens to be practicing family law as we speak. She caught the bug. There aren’t many areas of law where you can have an immediate impact on someone’s life, so it is especially rewarding when you can.
How do you find the patience and empathy to work with clients undergoing such emotional issues?
That’s a tough thing, and honestly there are times when I struggle with it. We encounter so many different personality types, and we often see people at their absolute worst. It can take a toll on you. But in the end, these are good people during a bad time, so you take a deep breath and realize that they are struggling too. I think for a divorce lawyer it’s especially important to practice self-care, like taking time away from the office and not reading and responding to emails 24/7. In the end, I think the most important thing is to set boundaries for yourself and for your client. I think the most difficult lawyers to deal with are the ones who align too closely with their clients’ struggles. When lawyers are too emotionally invested in a case, they tend to take on the client’s emotional timbre, which can really escalate the litigation. I always request that my clients see a counselor during the process so they can address the emotional piece there.
How does representing children differ from representing adults?
Well, I smile a lot more when I’m with my child clients because kids are awesome. It’s also nice to wear the white hat since the kids are always the good guys. But it’s not easy. Once a child’s representative or guardian ad litem is appointed, it’s clear the parents are in a state of heightened conflict; sometimes there are few real solutions to the problems these children face. And unfortunately, parents are often blind to their own destructive behaviors toward their children. I am a strong proponent of parenting classes and co-parenting counseling to help parents see that things that may seem innocuous to them, such as denigrating the other parent—even their little digs at one another, when unchecked - can have a lasting impact on their children. In fact, witnessing domestic violence literally changes a child’s brain development. It’s paramount to protect the children, so it’s a big responsibility to be appointed in that role.
Why do you prefer practicing within a law school as opposed to a private practice?
Because of the structure here at the clinic, I am able to charge an hourly rate that’s about 30 percent lower than I would if I were in private practice. Together with students who work on our cases, we are able to reduce clients’ overall costs enormously. This allows us to provide high-quality legal services to a whole segment of the population that could not otherwise afford it. And I love working with students (and telling war stories). I get a real sense of pride whenever I run into former students in the courtroom, which is frequently. I can’t take credit for their successes, but I do love to see them succeed.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love to cook, bake, and sit on the couch and watch true crime shows on TV with my dog, Jett. My job can be emotionally draining, because I’m working with people in crisis all the time, so I love nothing better than to be a hermit on the weekend. One day recently after a long weekend, I realized that I hadn’t spoken to another human in three days. It was glorious. A little pathetic, I know, but absolutely glorious.
Meet Clinic Attorney Tekla Modebadze (and Her Friend)!
Hi, I’m Tekla Modebadze. Along with my dog, Lola, I inhabit room 757, and I serve as a staff attorney in the Tax Practice. My primary areas of responsibility are liability cases (audits, appeals) and litigation, as well as managing inventory and assisting Clinical Professor Jonathan Decatorsmith with student training and supervision. I love my job, and I love Chicago.
I was born, raised, and mostly educated in Tbilisi, Georgia. While earning my LL.M. through the School of American Law Program here at Chicago-Kent, I interned in former Clinical Professor Daniel Coyne’s Criminal Defense Litigation Clinic and spent a semester as an intern in Decatorsmith’s Tax Practice. After graduation, Jon persuaded me to pass the bar and accept full-time employment with his practice. He says it’s a decision he will never regret, though sometimes I am not so sure.
I have recently worked on some pretty exciting and challenging cases. I was the primary attorney responsible for preparing a return preparer injunction case before the U.S. District Court against a formidable U.S. Department of Justice attorney. I have also been the contact attorney for several business clients and not-for-profit organizations, on behalf of which I have submitted federal tax exemption requests, drafted numerous state and federal compliance documents, and represented those clients in hostile IRS examinations. Currently, I am working with Jon to resolve a $25 million estate case pending before the U.S. Tax Court.
I love music, literature, animals, and my Georgian heritage. If you haven’t stopped by my office, please do and say hello!
Student Emily Lee Discusses Her Clinic Experience
The clinics provide a fantastic opportunity for law students to get hands-on experience with real legal practice. Students are able to build upon what they’ve learned in the classroom by applying theory to live cases in the clinics, while also learning to analyze legal matters as they arise in the real world and engage with clients.
In the Plaintiffs Employment Clinic course, which I took in the summer semester, I was able to conduct client interviews regarding specific discovery requests, draft briefs, and prepare pleadings. The focus on practical legal skills and unique student-centered environment make the clinics an invaluable experience for any law student looking to become a professional.
Student Natasha Crespo Discusses the Federal Health Litigation Clinic
This is my second term with the Federal Health Litigation Clinic. Last term, I learned what the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is and how to bring a claim in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. After combing through evidence for a new client, I told their story through the petition that officially kicked off their case. The clinic was a great learning experience and was my favorite class during 1L year—by far the least stressful too. This made it an easy choice to continue at the clinic this term. Because of a trial scheduled for late September, we started right in with trial preparation this semester. Most assignments involved looking for ways to strengthen our arguments on medical causation by reviewing questions for medical experts and past opinions that could weigh heavily on the outcome of our client’s claim.
The pre-trial tension was high when an experienced attorney was added to the opposing counsel’s side a week before the trial; a very high-ranking U.S. Department of Justice lawyer planted to emphasize possible policy implications if the special master (the judge) decides the case in our client’s favor. Unlike in other claims brought in federal court, the special master acts as both the fact-finder and decision-maker, meaning that she would from time to time directly question the expert witnesses to clarify points. The trial lasted a day and a half with three medical experts providing in-depth testimony and analysis of their own theories while tactically trying to tear down the opposition’s medical opinion.
During the trial, fellow student Melissa Roshass and I sat with Clinical Professor Edward Kraus, who was arguing the case for our client. It was a thrilling surprise for Melissa and me to sit at the client's table instead of in the gallery, where spectators usually sit. We had all the exhibits at our disposal to follow along with lines of questioning and offer help with the proper exhibit or page number for the current theory being evaluated. During recess, we talked through strategy and weak points of the opposing expert’s theory. Before and after the trial we had the opportunity to meet and chat with the opposing counsel, medical experts, and the special master. Overall, it is the most exciting part of law school yet, and I’m grateful to have seen fantastic litigators advocating their positions.