Children's Education Law Clinic graduate parleys clinic experience into fellowship

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Luke Lantta, ’04, figured his experience in the Children’s Education Law Clinic would give him an edge as far as interviewing clients and managing a file when he took his job after law school at the Atlanta law firm of Powell Goldstein. He didn’t imagine that his understanding of special education law would come in very handy, though. That was before he was awarded the 2004 Powell Goldstein Fellowship, allowing him to spend six months with Atlanta Legal Aid, where he is now developing a special education law practice in the Cobb County office.

“Powell Goldstein’s decision to offer me the Fellowship, and to place me in the Cobb County office in particular, was based on my work at Duke with the Children’s Education Law Clinic and my experience in special education matters gained through participation in the Clinic,” Luke reported. “The Children’s Education Law Clinic allowed me to attend and actively play a part in school meetings, negotiate with school districts, research disabilities, and really learn the law and procedure. There simply is no substitute for that kind of experience and exposure to special education issues.

“Within my first two weeks, I had four education cases with special education components,” Luke said. “It seems the economically disadvantaged, special needs children of Cobb County desperately need an advocate or a legal organization willing to represent them in their educational matters.” Because the attorneys in the Cobb County office had not created specialized forms for use in education cases, Luke contacted Children’s Education Law Clinic Director Jane Wettach, who shared some of the forms and templates used in the Duke Law Clinic. Luke adapted them for use in Georgia and is now sending them out regularly.

Luke credits his participation in the Children’s Education Law Clinic with giving him the confidence and preparation he needed to take on the challenges of handling education cases as a staff attorney at Legal Aid. “I came with invaluable hands-on experience in special education matters was well as exposure to and training in the complex world of special education law. Perhaps just as importantly, because of the Clinic, I came with a desire to fight inequality in the educational system and recognize the responsibility lawyers have to the underrepresented facing legal issues.”

After the completion of his Fellowship, Luke will work as a litigator with Powell Goldstein.

Duke Law School clinics launch new websites

Several of Duke Law School’s clinics are launching new websites to communicate the important educational opportunities these clinics offer to students, and the critical legal services that they provide to Durham and surrounding communities. Among the new sites:

Community Enterprise Clinic director Andrew Foster says that he is excited about the look and content of the CEC’s new site. “We want to be able to communicate to a broader audience the importance of what we do, and our new web presence helps us to educate students and prospective clients more generally about community revitalization and this area of legal practice.”