The Florida Bar
Center for Professionalism: Law School Report Florida International University
COLLEGE OF LAW
Annual Professionalism Report
Annual Professionalism Report
Florida International University College of Law was established by the State of Florida in 2000 to serve the citizens of the State of Florida, particularly South Florida, by providing access to the legal profession. The curriculum seeks to prepare students for the ethical and effective practice of law in an increasingly global and multicultural world. This report reports on the curriculum and activities of the faculty and students that reflect the law schools commitment and achievements in promoting professionalism and community service as a core part of the law school mission.
Students at FIU College of Law are introduced to the concept of professionalism during the very first week of their law school careers.
Over the course of the four-day Orientation Program, the students discuss professionalism during the four workshops taught by the Legal Skills & Values faculty, with the discussion emphasizing the attorney-client relationship and the duties attorneys owe their clients. The Orientation opens with a half-day series of professionalism workshops involving local attorneys, judges, the faculty and the entire first-year class.
Legal Skills & Values Program
The Legal Skills & Values Program features a series of three courses devoted not only to written and oral communication skills, but also professionalism. For example, in the Legal Skills & Values I course, the students continue to discuss the attorney-client relationship issues raised during Orientation, learning about the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar as they discuss the scope of the attorney-client relationship, the “competence” and “diligence” requirements, and the attorney’s role as the client’s advisor. In Legal Skills & Values II, the focus shifts to the attorney’s relationship with the courts and opposing counsel as the students examine the professionalism rules, for example, regarding meritorious claims, candor to the tribunal, and fairness to opposing counsel. And in Legal Skills & Values III, the students continue to learn about professionalism, this time in the context of negotiations, evaluating rules relating to truthfulness, communicating with unrepresented and represented parties, and respect for the rights of third parties. Throughout all Legal Skills & Values classes, students are advised that, as “in the real world, your “professionalism” – not just your skills and abilities – will be of key importance. You should consider this class an opportunity to display your professionalism – by treating others respectfully both in and out of the classroom, by thoroughly preparing all assignments, and by completing all assignments in a diligent and prompt manner.”
Effective and ethical lawyers understand that two major components of professionalism are balance and volunteerism. While stressing that academic obligations are paramount, the FIU College of Law Student Services Office encourages students to advance their professional and academic goals by participating in student organizations. Students learn early on that good lawyers not only have an obligation to develop skills related to the practice but the willingness and duty to use those skills to assist others in a voluntary capacity. Twenty-two (22) student organizations sponsor both social and community service-based projects throughout the academic year.
Additionally the FIU College of Law Student Services Office works with both regional and national bar associations to match students through their respective bar mentoring programs to provide opportunities for role-modeling and direct exposure to the effective and ethical practice of law. Some of these bar associations include: Broward County Hispanic Bar Association, the Caribbean Bar Association, Cuban American Bar Association, the Dade County Bar Association, Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association, the Haitian Lawyers Bar Association, the Wilkie D. Ferguson Bar Association, and the Florida Association of Women Lawyers.
Career Planning and Placement
The College of Law Office of Career Planning and Placement regularly sponsors professional development seminars which offer students the opportunity to discuss professional issues with representatives from the legal community. Topics covered include:
“Flying Solo- Practical Skills for Solo Practitioners”
“A Career in Environmental Law & Justice”
“The Life of a Government Lawyer”
“Professionalism in the Practice of Law”
“Women and the Law”
“A Career in Public Interest Law”
Board of Advocates
The FIU College of Law Board of Advocates is a student organization that serves as an “umbrella” organization governing student participation in all appellate advocacy (moot court), trial advocacy, and negotiation competitions - whether they be intramural, regional, national, or international in scope. Although the Board does not participate in any competitions specifically focused on “professionalism” topics, the students learn much about professionalism by participating in each competition. For each competition, the students work closely with their teammates, their faculty coach, and numerous other faculty members, but always with great attention to and discussion about the competition’s rules regarding proper assistance from others. Further, the students learn much about “competence” and “diligence” while preparing their briefs, or while preparing for their negotiations or trials. Finally, the students learn first hand, while at competition, what it means to treat opposing counsel and the “court” respectfully.
Florida International University College of Law’s Trial Advocacy Programs are comprised of intensive, hands-on, on-your-feet curricula designed to foster principled, passionate, professional advocacy – for the students of the today, and the lawyers of tomorrow.
Program coursework presently includes two classes -- Trial Advocacy and Pretrial Litigation and Advocacy. In Trial Advocacy, students act as Trial-Lawyers-in-Residence, practicing litigation skills all semester long, culminating in a final jury trial (that may be either a civil or a criminal case). In Pretrial, as Litigators-in-Residence, students travel on a civil or criminal “track” and see a case all the way up to trial – from client intake and case filing to discovery, motion practice, and final pretrial conference.
The Trial Advocacy, Pretrial Practice, and Advanced Trial Advocacy programs emphasize ethics, civility, and professionalism, values which are often “challenged” in an adversarial environment. Students are asked to consider the often delicate balance between client interest and candor to the tribunal, and familiarize themselves with disciplinary rules, ethical canons, court opinions, and numerous other “guides” to appropriate pretrial and trial behavior. Students are then are asked to put it all “in motion” as reflected in their written pleadings and courtroom exercises.
In addition to in-class learning, the College of Law’s Trial Team has participated in mock trial competitions in West Palm Beach and Miami, performing admirably in each. Here too – indeed perhaps more so – our students are put to the hazard, upon being placed in a high-pressure atmosphere to behave ethically and professionally, serving client, cause, and court all at the same time.
All told, each student passing through our Trial Advocacy Programs is taught that his and her word is her bond; that our legal communities are smaller than they might think; and that no case is worth the reputation they are working so hard to build, starting right here, at the College of Law.
The Clinical Program
The goals of the FIU College of Law clinical program are to teach students the skills, values and judgments needed in the practice of law. The program provides a teaching law firm for students to engage in legal practice while developing their ethical and moral responsibilities as lawyers to society. There are currently three in-house clinics and two externship clinics.
Community Development Clinic
The Community Development Clinic provides an opportunity for part-time students to gain legal experience before graduation and begin to make a transition from their previous careers to becoming lawyers. These students, who work at many different jobs, express how different it is to be in the role of lawyer as they represent the clinic’s clients. The students, many with strong business law and entrepreneurial interests, have an opportunity to advise and represent clients in the formation of corporations, drafting of contracts, negotiating leases, securing trademarks and working on other transactional issues building on their knowledge from business law courses and putting their learning into practice. Professor Peggy Maisel teaches the course assisted by Adjunct Professor John Little.
The Carlos A. Costa Immigration & Human Rights Clinic
In August 2004, the College of Law opened its first live-client, in-house law clinic, the Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic (“IHR Clinic”). The IHR Clinic’s students represent immigrants of all nationalities in various immigration matters. The IHR Clinic’s clients include refugees seeking asylum in the United States as a result of political persecution in their countries of origin; Cuban and Haitian nationals seeking relief under country-specific immigration legislation; and other vulnerable populations, such as abused spouses and children, unaccompanied minors, and aliens subject to immigration detention. Representation occurs in adversarial administrative hearings before immigration judges; in non-adversarial agency interviews; in appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals; and, as necessary, in appeals to the federal courts and to international bodies. Professor Troy Elder teaches the course.
Juvenile Justice Clinic (Delinquency and Education)
This is a one semester six credit graded clinic. Students have the choice of either participating in the Juvenile Delinquency or Education Advocacy sections of the Juvenile Justice Clinic. In the delinquency clinic, students provide representation to juveniles who are charged with committing crimes. Students enrolled in this clinic have the opportunity to combine the substantive study of juvenile and criminal law with practical litigation experience through simulations and actual client representation. In the classroom component, students examine various substantive issues in Florida juvenile law and practice including: delinquency, dependency, guardianship, emancipation, expulsion, suspension and obtaining governmental benefits to enable them to adequately counsel the clients during representation. In the Education Advocacy section clinic, students provide legal representation to juveniles with educational issues (i.e. special education, suspension, expulsion) or other legal issues that impact their school performance and attendance. Students enrolled will have the opportunity to combine the substantive study of education law with delinquency, dependency, guardianship, emancipation, expulsion, suspension, and obtaining governmental benefits. Students act as advocates in administrative and non judicial proceedings to ensure that the educational needs of the children are met. Students also participate in training and outreach for parents and the community.
Criminal Law Clinic
The Criminal Law Clinic is a six credit externship clinic offered primarily during the summer term. Students have an opportunity to work at the State Attorney’s or Public Defender’s Offices while enrolled in a two credit class examining ethical issues and teaching pre-trial and trial skills.
The Judicial Clinic is a six credit externship during which students intern with a Circuit Court Judge. Students observe hearings and trials, research legal issues, draft orders, draft opinions and review court files as assigned. A two credit classroom component examines the legal, political and ethical dimensions of the judicial decision making process.
Bar and Community Activities
The entire clinical law faculty frequently meets with members of the bar and others in the community to talk about the Clinical Programs and answer questions for people calling the law school needing legal services or other information. In addition, the faculty participate in a large number of bar and legal services activities that provide on-going community involvement. These include:
Professor Margaret (Peggy) Maisel:
Children's Trust - Children's Immigrant Legal Partnership, Leadership Council
Region 7 Impact Group
Society of American Law Teachers - Board of Governors
Global Alliance for Justice Education (GAJE) - Member and past International Steering Committee Member
Professor Troy Elder:
AILA (Member, Detention & Removal liaison)
AILA (Member and past chair, Asylum Office liaison)
Florida Bar (public interest law section) (member)
Professor Phyllis Kotey:
Florida Bar Criminal Law Section, Member
Florida Bar Criminal Rules Committee, Member
Judicial Division of the American Bar Association, Member
Professionalism and Ethics Committee of the Judicial Division, Member
Mandatory Pro Bono Program
The Florida International University College of Law seeks to teach professionalism to its students by requiring them to engage in pro bono service as part of their legal education. Service in the public interest is part of the fabric of this university community. The College of Law has embedded this commitment to public service into its curriculum through the Community Service Program. The objective of the program is to encourage students to view community service as part of their professional responsibility as lawyers. The program requires all College of Law students to complete at least 30 hours of qualifying pro bono legal service as part of their law school curriculum. Students
fulfill this graduation requirement at an approved placement site or by initiating a placement and submitting it for approval. Currently, the program’s approved placements include Legal Services of Greater Miami, Catholic Legal Services, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Legal Aid of the Dade County Bar Association, Legal Aid of Broward County, Lawyers for Literacy, VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), the Guardian ad Litem program, Church World Service, and the Office of Miami Public Defender.
Guidelines for Pro Bono Service
Entering students received the Guidelines for Pro Bono Service. These Guidelines serve as the compass for their pro bono service, providing direction on the policy and procedures of the program.
Informing and Advising Students
The College of Law disseminates information about pro bono legal service opportunities through the Coordinator of Community Service who communicates with students through email and personal meetings. The Coordinator has the responsibility to advise students, develop placements, and monitor students as they complete their community service requirement. Through communications and meetings with the Coordinator, students can learn about what they can do to contribute to the pro bono efforts of the legal community.
The process of informing and advising students about the role of pro bono service in the professional life of a lawyer begins at the Orientation of the incoming class. In the Orientation program, the Coordinator of Community Service has several opportunities to address new students about the lawyer’s professional responsibility to contribute to justice for all. During the academic year, additional information sessions are conducted to discuss pro bono efforts and to highlight various placements for service. During the past year, representatives from Legal Aid of the Dade County Bar Association, the Human Services Coalition, Legal Services of Greater Miami, and Catholic Legal Services visited the law school and spoke to students about the need for public interest lawyering.
In addition to volunteering with pro bono agencies, students have the opportunity to participate in local events that educate and serve the community. On November 7, 2006, students volunteered with the Election Protection Program of Miami-Dade County. In the 2007 spring semester, students assisted at the Indian Law Conference held by the Miccosukee Indian Tribe. Throughout the past year, students were part of the One Nation Program to assist indigent clients to apply for naturalization and the Sealing and Expungement Program organized by the Offices of the State Attorney and the Public Defender to help qualified individuals to apply for restoration of rights.
Other Courses and Faculty Activities
One of the primary missions of the law school is to graduate competent attorneys that understand their professional obligations and engage in their law practice in a manner that is cognizant of their ethical obligations to the community. As the college of law’s self-study to the American Bar Association addresses, the faculty is committed to achieving that goal. As the self-study provides:
the College of Law has obligations to the region, state, nation and the international community to assist the legal profession and the society it serves. The FIU College of Law seeks to graduate students who appreciate the lawyer’s professional and ethical obligations to serve the community. The College of Law seeks to educate future lawyers who will understand the value – to the community and to them personally – of helping those in need. Students are required to satisfy a community service requirement, and the College of Law offers clinical legal education programs in which students represent indigent clients. Faculty members model these values by participating in local, state, national and international professional service activities.
In connection with the ethical obligations of the Bar, the College of Law created a curriculum with an emphasis on community service. For instance, the three-semester Legal Skills & Values Program includes significant instruction in legal ethics and professionalism. In the Legal Skills and Values Program students not only learn traditional and advanced skills, they also examine the tensions between client-based advocacy and professionalism, and the relationships and interests of those involved in our legal system – the clients, their attorneys, the courts, and society. Indeed, the very goals of the program highlight the ethical obligations of attorneys. Again, from the self study:
- The LSV Program and its courses are premised on the beliefs that (1) strong research and writing skills are vital to lawyers in all areas of practice; (2) other lawyering skills should be introduced early in the students’ academic careers; and (3) concerns for the ethical sensitivity and civility of lawyers demand an early and recurring emphasis. Each course provides students with considerable instruction and practical experience in legal analysis, research, written and oral communication, and professionalism.
The upper level curriculum includes the standard, required, three-credit Professional Responsibility class. Many upper-level doctrinal and skills courses also address professional responsibility issues, as do the clinical courses. The upper-level curriculum places substantial emphasis on instruction in the skills and values of the legal profession. In addition to the three-semester sequence of LSV courses, the Legal Clinics, the Trial and Pre-trial Practice Program, the Community Service Program, the Professional Responsibility course, Seminars, and other upper level skills courses provide significant professionalism components. In addition, students are exposed to issues of ethics and professionalism in the Community Service Program. All students are required to take the three LSV courses, Professional Responsibility, a seminar and at least two upper level litigation and ADR courses. In addition and closely tied to our curriculum objectives in professional skills and values, students must perform at least 30 hours of law-related community service.