The University of Alabama School of Law boasts seven different legal clinics in which students, under the supervision of a practicing attorney, gain hands-on experience by providing free legal assistance to low-income individuals, business startups, and non-profit organizations. These clinics focus on a variety of substantive areas and cases such as civil litigation, entrepreneurship, criminal defense, children’s rights, and domestic violence law. One remarkable case recently came out of our Elder Law Clinic directed by Professor Allyson Gold.
Halle Diaz, a 2L student at Alabama Law, represented an elderly, disabled woman who was at risk of being evicted from her long-term care facility due to confusion over whether she was eligible for assisted living. After months of tireless advocacy, Diaz successfully appealed the insurance termination. As a result, the client was able to remain in her home and recoup more than $25,000 in back pay compensation.
Remembering the initial intake call, Halle shared how shocked and overwhelmed she felt as she first heard the details of the case.
“After talking on the phone with this client for two or three hours and then looking down at my notes I felt overwhelmed. Then I thought, if I don’t take this case who else is going to want to?” Halle explained.
After waiting months for the appeal to be approved, during which the client was only saved from homelessness by the COVID eviction ban, the news of the appeal’s approval was finally delivered in December. Halle said the importance now rests in making sure all logistics are addressed so there is no chance of this happening again.
Reflecting on her path to law school, Halle credits her father for instilling a passion in her for both education and law. She recalls how he would share stories about attending law school in San Salvador during the Salvadoran Civil War—a time when people were shooting in the streets while he was trying to take the bus to school. Halle now recognizes that the privilege she enjoys of having a family that encouraged her to pursue an education is not shared by everyone, everywhere—even in the U.S.
“America isn’t considered a third world country, but there are many people in the U.S. who are living like it is,” Halle said.
While Halle doesn’t know in exactly what direction she will go post-graduation, she shared that her experience with the Elder Law Clinic has piqued an interest in elderly care law where she can help rewrite the narrative of those struggling to thrive in America. She also expressed an interest in transactional health care law, which deals with hospital mergers. No matter where she ends up, Halle shared that her experience working this case will benefit her long-term career pursuits.
“UA is an incredible law school that gives you hands-on experience. When I was measuring UA against other universities, some of them may have been higher ranked, but the Elder Law Clinic was something truly unique and special. Besides that, Alabama has great professors who care about who you are and what you want out of law school and try to help you get there,” Halle explained as she mentioned meeting with Professor Allyson Gold later that day to discuss her future plans.
When asked about this case, Professor Gold expressed little surprise that Halle performed so well. She said Halle, and many other clinic students, did not shy away from taking on the daunting task of tackling a real-life case in the middle of COVID-19. Gold expressed that her favorite part of running the Elder Law Clinic was teaching developing students who are more open to being creative in their solutions to real-world issues.
While Halle’s case is still ongoing, it is in the closing stages and it appears to be another win for the Elder Law Clinic—one of many more to come at the Alabama School of Law.
Written by: Heather Gann
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