May 1, 2012 – In recognition of its efforts through the Tornado Relief Assistance Project, The University of Alabama School of Law Clinical Program will receive the 2012 Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Project, sponsored by the Clinical Legal Education Association.
Highlights from the Tornado Relief Assistance Project include:
- training law students in the intake process, placing clients in shelters and disaster assistance centers, and then pairing students with either clinic lawyers or local volunteer lawyers to handle client legal matters to conclusion;
- hosting a training workshop calling for students and other law faculty to join the volunteer program (this resulted in 75 volunteers signing up);
- performing intakes at the law school clinics each morning, then going out to three remote areas in the afternoon, each time staffed with at least two student volunteers, a clinic attorney, and a volunteer lawyer;
- in less than one month, opening 200 tornado relief files – approximately the number of files the school’s Civil Law Clinic typically handles in an entire year;
- teaching a first-time summer clinic session to continue the relief efforts until the fall semester;
- enlisting a new group of law student volunteers to do door-to-door canvassing for unmet legal needs (this resulted in more than 50 volunteers participating).
To date, the clinical program’s tornado relief effort has directly assisted more than 250 individual clients, reflecting well over 1,000 hours of student lawyer time, as well as hundreds of hours of clinic faculty and staff time.
“Their quick response to the disaster and creative efforts to find and remedy legal needs reflects the highest standards and aspirations of the legal profession,” says Bob Kuehn, professor of law at Washington University School of Law. “Beyond the hundreds of needy residents of Tuscaloosa served by this project, it has instilled in law students a professional ethic to help those in need, created important bonds between the school and the local bar, brought together faculty and staff from all parts of the law school, and displayed to the Tuscaloosa community the good work that lawyers are capable of doing in times of crisis.”
Alabama Law shares the award with Quinnipac University School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic, which won for its work to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut.