September 24, 2012Free Legal Aid Clinic student attorneys
working at the Detroit Free Legal Aid Clinic were thrilled recently to cut the ribbon and officially move into their brand new digs - right next to the organization's former office on Woodward Avenue.
Last winter, the clinic, which operates in conjunction with Lakeshore Legal Aid and with the Elder Law and Advocacy Center, was in trouble. The roof of FLAC's former home office was caving in.
The Wayne Law students came up with a possible solution for a new and better office to help them serve FLAC's low-income clients, and the clinic's Executive Board - all students -presented their "case" to Law School Dean Robert Ackerman.
He was impressed with their initiative, and that they hadn't asked the university, which helps sponsor the clinic, to solve the problem for them. Ackerman helped the students put their plan into action.
A couple of moves were involved. First, the clinic - run by law students under the supervision of licensed attorneys - had to move lock, stock and law books into temporary office space on the Law School's third floor.
The students found more permanent new office space for FLAC in a building right next door to their old one, but it needed extensive renovations, and the students needed a place to work for their clients while the repairs took place. The students also proposed to the dean a way to fund the renovations for the new office.
"We said we could pay a third (through fundraisers), the law school could pay a third and the alumni could pay a third," said FLAC Chairwoman Gabrielle Saitz, a third-year law student. "We wanted to be close to the law school."
Ackerman made it happen, and found funds in the law school's budget to provide FLAC with a little extra besides. He is proud of the students, proud of the conscientious manner in which they run FLAC, and proud of the service FLAC has provided to Wayne County's low-income residents since the clinic was founded in 1965 by Wayne Law alumni, students and private donors.
And now the student attorneys with FLAC have moved into their new space, which is bigger than their original office space and in a location familiar to their clients.
Wherever they work, the students with FLAC share a passion for advocacy and service, and enthusiasm for the clinic's work, whether they're doing it as interns for credit, work-study students for a stipend or as volunteers.
"We're helping people who've been in really bad situations," said FLAC Secretary Julie Bland, a third-year law student. "It feels really good to be someone's advocate and help them get out of a bad situation. Ideally, I would like to work in legal aid (after graduation)."
Patrick Klida, a second-year law student who works with FLAC, said he, too, would like to work as an attorney after graduation for "the people who need it most and for causes I believe in."
"FLAC has a legacy in the community, and that's something I want to contribute to and be a part of," he said. "My heart's really in the mission."
The "mission" now has office space at 5425 Woodward Avenue. Donations are welcome. Visit http://www.detroitflac.com
to learn more.