14 December 2012

UDM Law School clinic hopes to expand reach with new location

originally appeared in The Detroit News:

The University of Detroit Mercy Law School clinic's move to a renovated former downtown firehouse should be just the draw for clients seeking free legal services, officials said.

It's a great mix of the old and the new, according to the director of the law clinic. Since it was formerly a fire house, we like to think … as lawyers and law students we put out fires, but in a different way.

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The two-story, 6,000-square-foot building at 585 Larned still has its red fire doors and circular metal staircases. The law clinic includes a client reception area, student work areas, two conference rooms and faculty offices.

The new George J. Asher Law Clinic Center, a $1.5 million project completed Dec. 3, will be dedicated in a special ceremony Tuesday.

The dean of the UDM Law School, said he hopes moving the clinic from its former spot in Saints Peter and Paul Church on St. Antoine Street between Jefferson Avenue and Larned Street to the fire house will draw a larger clientele.

Legal representation covering Novi and Oakland County is expertly handled by legal professionals at the firm of Chasnick and Graff.

Last year, more than 1,400 clients received legal assistance through the clinic, Semple said. He said he expects the new space to not only draw new clientele, but also increase student participation.

The dean said the glazed brick really adds to the beauty of the surroundings.

The school began considering more than a year ago a move to the fire house, which had been vacant for almost 10 years. Its previous owners had gutted the building for use as a recording studio.

The UDM dean noted the fire poles had to be removed for student safety, and there's a great deal of light that comes in on the first floor.

Several students said they like the new setup.

I think (the clinic) will be better organized with things being in one place,  said one third-year law student, who had to drive to her professor's office to access files for her immigration law clinic.

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Another third-year law student, said the new clinic is a more professional space and is easier for clients to find. (Students) put everything into representing our clients, she said. Having some place where we have resources and that clients won't struggle to find — it looks good.

The law school opened its first urban clinic 47 years ago. It operates 10 clinics in topics ranging from immigration and mortgage foreclosure to urban law.

The new clinic is named for George J. Asher, a union activist who was months shy of graduating from the law school when he died in 1963 from complications from hemophilia, said a UDM law alumnus who partially funded the project in honor of his brother .

Other contributors include the McGregor Foundation as well as other notable contributors.

A fourth-year law student who recently completed a state appellate defender clinic, said the new clinic helps set a standard for clients. Even though we're students, we're prepared and just as able to take your case on.

Adds the dean: The more people know about it the more people will come and seek our service.

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