Students reflect on experiences, skills learned with clinics
Each year, Duke Law students have the opportunity to enroll in one of the school’s 11 clinics and gain practical legal skills while providing needed services for the community.
Working under the supervision of attorneys, Duke Law students working in our clinics conduct research, prepare briefs and other legal documents, provide legal advice, and more. This past fall, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many students participated in important work in the clinics, even while maintaining social distancing and working virtually.
Here are reflections from some of the students who worked in the clinics this fall, with a look inside their work with clients and how their work built on their classroom experience, and helped prepare them for their legal careers:
Madalyn Sowar Strahl ’21 on working in the Start-Up Ventures Clinic:
“The Start-Up Ventures Clinic has been the best course experience I’ve had at Duke Law School. Working in the clinic, you learn how to communicate directly with clients and help them solve problems they didn’t even know they had. I loved helping young businesses in my community, and the experience has better prepared me to start my career.”
Learn more about the Start-Up Ventures Clinic.
Ishrath Ahmed ’21 on working in the Community Enterprise Clinic:
“This semester, I worked closely with the founder of a non-profit organization that specializes in developing affordable housing for low- to median-income residents. I was able to help draft and amend the organization’s bylaws and articles of incorporation and help draft a development agreement for an upcoming project. Through my experience in the clinic and with much guidance from my professor, Andrew Foster, I grew more confident in my legal capabilities and was able to gain exposure to a different side of transactional work. Furthermore, the clinic allowed me to develop an invaluable personal and professional relationship with my client, and it is an experience I will take with me for the rest of my career.”
Learn more about the Community Enterprise Clinic.
Hadley Dreibelbis ’21 on working in the First Amendment Clinic:
“One of the reasons I chose to attend Duke Law was the unique opportunity to defend free speech through the Duke First Amendment Clinic. This semester in the Clinic, I’ve drafted written discovery documents as well as an appellate brief and counseled clients. Most importantly, our work has supported individuals’ right to advocate for their communities, share personal stories, and investigate journalistic leads. I look forward to continuing this work next semester and carrying the skills I’ve learned in the Clinic into my professional career.”
Learn more about the First Amendment Clinic.
Andrew Lindsay ’21 on working in the Immigrant Rights Clinic:
“While I had academic experience with immigration law as a research assistant for Professor Kate Evans and Dean Kerry Abrams, the practical experience of crafting our client’s habeas petition was a whole different beast. Confronting our client’s personal and legal challenges gave me more empathy for the realities that so many immigrants face in the United States—realities I have been lucky to avoid by mere accident of birth. Drafting the entire habeas petition and parts of the claims in the memorandum supporting it—with help from Professor Evans, of course—marked a personal sea change that pushed me to become a better writer and escape the monotony of issue-spotting exams and student notes.
The key lesson from this experience: Like racism, the law is a visceral experience with practical impact—it ‘blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth,’ and separates fathers from their children—to paraphrase my favorite author, Ta-Nehisi Coates. But it can be redemptive too. So, I have no doubt that our client will be united with his family because of our efforts.”
Learn more about the Immigrant Rights Clinic.
Steven Dallas ’21 on working in the Wrongful Convictions Clinic:
“Working with the Wrongful Convictions Clinic has been the most meaningful experience of my law school career. I have had the opportunity to work on truly fascinating—and distressing—cases, and it has been a true privilege to learn from incredible mentors who are teaching me how to practice law the right way. My work with the clinic constantly reminds me of how privileged I am to pursue a legal career, as well as the responsibilities that come with such a career. Indeed, although there is nothing more exhilarating than fighting for justice, there is also nothing more sobering than knowing that, for many of these individuals, you may be their last hope for freedom. Knowing that I can play a role in correcting an injustice and bringing these innocent individuals home to their families—where they should have been all along—motivates me to constantly work harder and to strive to become a better advocate.”
Learn more about the Wrongful Convictions Clinic.
Maryam Kanna ’21 on working in the International Human Rights Clinic:
“This semester, as a member of the International Human Rights Clinic, I was able to get into the weeds of high-stakes human rights issues. The clinic showed me how human rights law can be used to advocate for marginalized peoples around the world: through litigation, research, and advocacy, to name a few. I was able to work on skills in legal research and writing, and legal interviewing. I highly recommend the clinic to students interested in international law and who want to protect the human rights to which all people are entitled.”
Learn more about the International Human Rights Clinic.
Thomas Napoli ’21 on working in the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic:
“This semester, I worked on a joint team of JD and graduate environmental management students to appeal an administrative decision that stripped a group of rural North Carolinians of their access to clean drinking water provided by the Bernard Allen Fund. My fellow student-attorney and I got the opportunity to write the legal memorandum and then deliver oral argument in a Superior Court in North Carolina. I am tremendously grateful to my supervisors and the dedicated clinical staff who mentored and supported me through this entire appeal, an experience which has confirmed my desire to pursue a career as a litigator and take on environmental cases.”
Learn more about the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.
Anderson Vereyken '21 on working in the Civil Justice Clinic:
“The Civil Justice Clinic does a lot of things, but the thing it does that I’ve been most involved with has been eviction diversion work. Durham is in the middle of an eviction crisis. More and more people are moving to the Triangle every year. Rents are going up higher and higher, and a lot of folks are finding that their paychecks just don’t go as far as they used to. Coronavirus has only made this worse. People in the community are losing their jobs or are temporarily laid off from jobs that they can’t do remotely. Fortunately, the Civil Justice Clinic will provide for low-income folks free eviction defense services, and our hope is to keep as many people and their families in their homes as possible.”
Learn more about the Civil Justice Clinic.
Nanma Okeani '21 on working with the Children's Law Clinic:
"This semester, I worked with a local student group to address systemic issues involving school discipline. I conducted interviews, fact investigation, legal research, and analysis to consider how the issue would evolve in the remote learning environment. I also provided legal advice to students for whom remote learning was a difficult change that hindered their ability to participate in the classroom."
Learn more about the Children's Law Clinic.