In law school we learn the law; we read cases and then spend hours trying to understand them enough to be able to apply them to fact-patterns our professors write. We rarely, however, spend much time thinking about the impact of these laws on the individuals and communities they affect. We never discuss how the law can be used to help people.
When I joined the Housing and Community Development Legal Clinic it primarily interested me as an opportunity to learn more about real estate and to gain more transactional experience. To be honest, I wasn't very interested in the community development aspect of the clinic. Then I began to meet with some of the clinic's clients.
The people I've met devote their lives to helping strangers, whether by developing affordable housing or trying to help bring businesses in to revitalize underdeveloped communities. These people don't do this for the money. They aren't interested in prestige; they truly just want to make a difference. And my job is to help them understand the laws that make this possible.
For the first time in law school my job is not to memorize and overanalyze laws that seem to have little relevance to anything. Instead my job is to find laws and regulations that can assist my clients in helping achieve their goals. For the first time I'm reading laws and applying laws that can have a huge impact on some of the most underrepresented groups in our society. Through tax incentives and other programs, legislatures, who often seem so removed from the "real world", are able to remove the economic barriers that might otherwise prevent people, like those I've met, from being able to have a meaningful impact.
This has been by far the most exciting part of my time in this Clinic. I actually am able to see how our clients, who so truly want to have a positive impact, will be able to use the laws in place to help them help others.
The author is a student in the Housing and Community Development Legal Clinic. These views are solely the views of the author and do not represent the views of the Clinic, the Law School or the University.