Legal Clinic Celebrates Five Year Partnership
When an area youth encounters legal issues, be it an outstanding warrant or a request for a name change, they often have nowhere to turn. For the last five years, SLU LAW’s Child Advocacy Clinic has worked to satisfy this gap in legal coverage through its partnership with The SPOT.
The SPOT provides aid to St. Louis youth and responds to their needs through a comprehensive model of health and social services. The organization was founded in September 2008 and partnered with the Child Advocacy Clinic, supervised by Associate Professor Patricia Harrison, from the beginning. As a part of this alliance, many SLU LAW clinic students have contributed free legal services and provided access to holistic health and justice for The SPOT clients.
“It's a rewarding experience to interact with and assist this vulnerable population as they navigate the justice system,” said 3L Clinic student Patrick Collins. “Working with The SPOT has allowed me to better understand the human underpinnings behind the law.”
Rochelle Moore, lead case manager at The SPOT, believes the collaboration has benefited SPOT clients by providing the youths with advocates within the justice system.
“The Child Advocacy Clinic has provided counsel for our youth dealing with evictions, Metro tickets, warrants, immigration, and name changes.”
Moore explains that these free services are particularly important because, “Many of our youth do not have an opportunity to speak with legal professionals, mostly due to financial reasons and lack of access. By having the law students come to The SPOT weekly and offer their services without any cost to the youth, we are able to eliminate those barriers.”
Often their services go beyond weekly visits to The SPOT as students will assist their clients all the way through the court system. Ricky is one youth who was supported throughout the resolution of his legal ordeal. He later remarked that the help provided by clinic students, “saved my life” by ending legal matters otherwise preventing him from moving forward with his life.
Another client, Kevin, sought legal assistance during the first year of the partnership. Due to difficult circumstances he was unable to pay his rent and utilities bills and became delinquent on them. His landlord started the legal process of eviction, which led to Kevin being referred to the SLU LAW student who was working with The SPOT at the time.
Today Kevin reflects on the event as an empowering moment, because he had the SLU legal team to guide him.
“I felt like I could face anything with them on my side. I knew I might still get evicted, but I wasn’t facing it alone.”
In the end Kevin had to leave his apartment and pay back rent, but his legal team was able to get some of his fees reduced. However, what was most important to him was the relief he felt knowing he had someone on his side. Kevin now lives in his own apartment and works as an assistant manager at a retail store. He says he will always be grateful that the Child Advocacy Clinic was there to help him when he needed support.
In addition to their help in the courtroom, SLU LAW students give presentations and brochures to The SPOT clients about how to interact with law enforcement officials. These information sessions are especially appreciated as many of these young adults interact with law enforcement on a daily basis.
“It has been an absolute privilege to work with the youth at The SPOT,” said 3L Kelsy Vollmer. “The successes and failures we have shared and the challenges of facing a social reality different from my own have provided me with invaluable lessons about true advocacy. Ultimately, the opportunity to bring social justice to these youth that have been denied it in some way has reminded me why I came to law school in the first place. ”
As to the future of the program, Moore hopes that it will continue to prosper.
“It is a partnership that has impacted many young people’s lives for the better. We hope it will continue for years to come.”
Written by Maureen Brady