Southwestern Establishes New Immigration Appeals Practicum
Continuing its commitment to provide students with optimum training in specialized areas of law, Southwestern has aligned with the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP (MTO) to establish a new Immigration Appeals Practicum (IAP). Beginning in the Fall 2010 semester, students selected for the IAP will work closely with MTO attorneys and represent pro bono clients in appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
"The program allows students to work with top notch attorneys from one of the best law firms in Los Angeles," said Professor Andrea Ramos, Director of Southwestern's Immigration Law Clinic, who is coordinating the program with MTO. "Under close supervision, students will hone their research and writing skills while at the same time providing a public service to individuals who cannot afford legal representation."
The IAP will provide students with a rigorous and immersive experience in practice-oriented written legal analysis on cases that raise complex legal questions. Each student will be paired with an MTO attorney and assigned a BIA appellate brief due before the end of the semester. Participating students will conduct preliminary research and collaborate with a supervising attorney to draft the brief. Throughout the process, each student will be in regular contact with his or her supervising attorney, and will attend weekly meetings at MTO offices to discuss research results as well as the outline and content of the brief. Participating students will earn three units of ungraded externship credit.
Once the initial draft is complete, the student will submit the brief and a bench book to his or her supervising attorney. The attorney will review and edit the brief, double-check all of the research, and work with the student to refine and perfect it. The attorney and student will then work together to file the brief with the BIA.
MTO attorney Avi Braz developed the idea for the practicum because of the incredible experience he had working on a pro bono BIA appeal for the firm. "When I read about Southwestern's immigration clinic, I was very excited," he said. "After talking to Professor Ramos it seemed like Southwestern would be a great fit for this program."
Up to three students will be selected for the IAP each semester. Those who wish to participate must have demonstrated an interest in immigration and appellate law, a strong academic record, and proven writing ability. Professor Ramos will also work with MTO's Program Coordinator (Braz) to secure appropriate BIA cases for the practicum and lend her expertise in immigration law to both the students and supervising attorneys as they prepare briefs.
Braz points out that this program will be beneficial for all involved. "It's about helping clients who lack financial resources to deal with the complicated legal problems created by our byzantine immigration system. As an added bonus, both attorneys and students will have the opportunity to hone their craft while working on incredibly challenging and interesting legal issues."