The Housing and Community Development Legal Clinic is easily one of the most valuable courses I’ve had the pleasure of taking while at DePaul. And as unbelievable as this might sound, I really enjoy all my classes (with the occasional exception, of course). This has already proven to be so much more than just a class; not only am I learning things that only life (i.e. not books) can teach you, I’m getting the chance to work closely with some really talented people. I also am developing new (and strengthening existing) relationships that I hope will continue long after we complete the one year program and go our separate ways.
My learning experience has been enhanced through our discussions, case rounds, and client interactions. I believe that our small class size and diverse group helps foster communication, but ultimately it is everyone’s attitude that actually transforms the space into one that allows for the unfettered exchange of ideas. It’s as though we all have this understanding that we come from different backgrounds and bring something different to the table. You can tell some thought went into this program. The professor incorporates thoughtful reading articles to complement the textbook so we get a nice balance of the fundamental concepts along with examples of the application in practice.
The most enlightening aspect of participating in the Clinic has been the client experience. Books simply cannot teach you about the transformation from a student to a practitioner. I’m just a law student stepping into the shoes of a practicing attorney, assuming this role that is associated with the competent practice of law. And as if this weren’t disconcerting on its own, we have real clients that are actually relying on us for guidance. I’m comfortable working with clients in other settings, but cannot yet bring that same comfort level to my dealings here. I would be fooling myself if I purported to be an expert in any area of law at this point in my academic career. I try to be cognizant of the fact that I am a novice and this is a learning process. So, when I find myself in situations in which I search for an answer to a question only to find that it depends on the answer to another question which subsequently reveals 20 more, I try to keep in mind that the frustration is a part of the learning process and I try not to let it get to me. And so, I draw on what I’ve learned from my other classes, dig into my research, and use my good judgment to fill in the gaps. I’m learning so much and having lots of fun along the way. It’s only through the learning process and by gaining experience will I be able to elevate myself from novice status to the next rung up.