Community Development Law "CDL" Clinic

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At this time each year, my Community Development Law (“CDL”) Clinic students receive their first client assignments – all community based nonprofit organizations – and begin planning initial interviews with the organizations’ stakeholders. As a teacher, I take great satisfaction in watching, and to a certain extent guiding, as the CDL students become comfortable with interviewing and counseling clients.

In their first interviews, they sometimes are overly formal, even stiff.  Because they are nervous, they miss cues from the clients. They fail to follow up on rich leads and they occasionally forget to ask important questions.

My satisfaction as a teacher comes weeks or months later when I observe them conducting their fourth or fifth client interviews. By then, almost all of them are comfortable in their own skins. They realize that they don’t have to act like lawyers they have seen on television: they can just be themselves and rely on a combination of their humanity, curiosity, and nascent but fast-developing professional knowledge and judgement.

When I debrief with students after those late-in-the-semester interviews, I can hear the enthusiasm, almost joy, in their voices. They are on their way to becoming effective lawyers who can help people and make a positive difference in their communities, and they can feel it.

Tom Kelley
Tom Kelley

Posted by Thomas A. Kelley III (Tom) on Thu. September 7, 2017 1:54 PM
Categories: Community Development Law Clinic
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

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