Wrongful Convictions Clinic seeks alumni to assist advancing cases

September 1, 2009Duke Law News

Professors Jim Coleman and Theresa Newman ’88, co-directors of the Law School's Wrongful Convictions Clinic, are looking for alumni to help the clinic advance multiple cases of North Carolina inmates who have credible claims of actual inmates. They also are searching for pro bono counsel willing to serve as pro bono counsel on Public Records Act requests.

Newman and Coleman report their great appreciation for alumni who already are helping advance some of the clinic cases. “Our partnerships with alumni have been outstanding,” says Newman. “We and our students benefit greatly from the energy, expertise, and dedication our alumni bring to the work. It’s gratifying to look around the table on these cases and see third-year students, recent alumni, and highly experienced alums. What a lucky client to get that team!”

“It is especially gratifying when our young alumni, who as students worked in the clinic or volunteered in the Innocence Project, return as lawyers,” adds Coleman. “They are making a great contribution to our students and to the profession.”

Alumni have pitched in on a range of tasks, from discrete parts of cases to first chair in litigation, the role David Pishko ’77 has taken on on behalf of clinic client Kalvin Michael Smith. (Read more in Duke Law Magazine.)

Sachin Bansal '08, now at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York, has continued to work on a case he began while a clinic student. He even recruited two current Duke Law students to work on the case while they were summer associates at his firm.

Many alumni volunteering their time are also stepping well outside their usual areas of practice, and they love it. Jim Maxwell ’66, who has a very successful civil litigation practice in Durham, first became involved in a clinic case as a consultant. The client had been represented at trial by a lawyer with very significant conflicts of interest, and Maxwell offered advice on professional responsibility law, one of his areas of expertise.
Once he became involved in that limited issue, however, Maxwell became interested in the facts of the case and jumped in. He has now visited the client, participated in the development of the case, and strategized with the rest of the team on the next steps.

“Most of us decided to become lawyers in the belief that we could help protect, preserve or advance the legal rights of our clients. We believed that we would be engaged in seeking justice,” says Maxwell. “By working with the Wrongful Conviction Clinic, one can see these ideals personified with real people in real cases. By having the opportunity to work with the bright, energetic and committed students who staff the clinic, one can be reminded of why we became an attorney in the first place.”

For further information or to volunteer services, please contact Theresa Newman at newman@law.duke.edu.
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