MORGANTOWN – The West Virginia University College of Law recently celebrated its law clinic’s 40th anniversary.
The law clinic provides hands-on education to law students and an opportunity to practice and serve the public of West Virginia by providing legal representation for low-income residents, victims of domestic violence, immigrants, and veterans. Services range from criminal to Internal Revenue Service to providing legal assistance to asylum seekers. The event, titled The Clinics Today: Current Work and Community Impact, hosted panel discussions and included multiple distinguished attendees.
“It went very well,” Professor of Law and the Clinical Law Program Director Marjorie McDiarmid told The West Virginia Record. “Students learned about WVU Law’s nine clinic opportunities and alumni in attendance got a chance to see the new facilities. (Chief of Staff to Gov. Jim Justice) Nicholas Casey presented the governor’s proclamation and remarks on the importance of clinic services to the state. West Virginia House Speaker Timothy Armstead and federal district Judge Irene Keeley as well as representatives from private law practice and Legal Aid of West Virginia, all talked about what they learned in the clinics and how their experience influenced their subsequent legal career.”
McDiarmid said the importance of the law clinic is to educate future lawyers about their public service duties and ethical responsibilities and to provide free legal services to qualifying individuals. The clinic also provides services to entrepreneurs and cities and counties in need of flood recovery assistance.
“(We have) increased the number of students able to take clinic from 4-6 to more than 70,” McDiarmid said. “The clinic has increased the kinds and volume of services available to our clients and built the professional expertise of the Bar of the state of West Virginia. (We) provide legal counseling and negotiation in an effort to resolve legal problems before they have to be litigated, (offering) a full range of legal services to clients.”
Law students appear at every level of the court system including circuit, family and court of appeal, Social Security Administration and the Veterans’ Administration. The clinic also litigates in bankruptcy court and draft wills, contracts and ordinances, she said.
McDiarmid herself has been practicing civil and criminal law since she graduated from Columbia Law School in 1970. She taught as a fellow in the Harvard Clinical program and since she’s been at WVU, said her work there has been most rewarding.
“I came over here and have been consistently happy that I did so,” she said. “This is a state with a caring and conscientious Bar. It has been a pleasure to help train lawyers who are now judges, partners in major law firms, staff in every legal aid organization in the state, and plaintiff and defense counsel in every county in both the civil and the criminal practice.”
She said graduates have served in the legislature and governmental agencies, and that she was, “equally pleased when I think back on the many clients we have served and whose lives we have made better.”