Law students advise nonprofit clients in leadership course

Second-year law students provided legal insights and solutions for nonprofit organizations that serve low-income, homeless and arts communities, through Elon University School of Law’s 2013 Public Law and Leadership course.

Students gained hands-on legal experience in the course by working directly with nonprofit organizations as clients. Under the supervision of faculty, students advised the Greensboro Housing Coalition, The Greensboro Voice, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth and the Southeastern Theatre Conference, Inc. Students worked in teams to research legal issues facing these nonprofit organizations and to develop solutions for their clients’ legal and business challenges. An executive leadership coach and an attorney coach worked with each team. Law students participated in the course at the mid-point of their legal education.

“The second year component to Elon Law’s leadership program allowed us to practice the legal skills we have learned over the past three semesters with real clients,” said law student Andrew Realon who worked with The Greensboro Voice. “It was an empowering opportunity to be able to solve the current legal issues facing our clients, even though we have another three semesters of law school to go. By working in groups, we were able to expand the scope of legal service provided to our clients, affording them a more comprehensive legal strategy for the future rather than focusing on the narrow issues presented.”

In the Public Law & Leadership course, which takes place annually during the law school’s January winter term, students employ client interviewing techniques, legal research methods and written and oral communication skills to develop memoranda and presentations for their clients. In-class discussions explore team dynamics and the attributes of effective team leadership. The executive coaches assist students in assessing their individual leadership styles and establishing goals for interpersonal development in the team context.

“The thing that I enjoyed most about winter term 2013 was collaborating with a group to meet the needs of our client,” said Jetonne’ Ellis who worked with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth. “Although there was a lot of work to be done in a short period of time, being able to designate tasks based on our strengths and weaknesses made the work manageable and the experience much more enjoyable. Not only did this winter term teach us valuable lessons about ourselves, but it also gave us the opportunity to build relationships with our colleagues.”

Beth McKee-Huger, Executive Director of Greensboro Housing Coalition, center, talks with Elon Law students from left, Patrick Ward, Murphy Townsend and Michael Bunch, after observing a home inspection for housing code violations.

“We were not simulating operating as if we were attorneys, we were tackling real legal issues for real people and providing them with concrete answers as to how to solve those problems,” said Pedro Mantilla who worked with The Greensboro Voice. “I realized just how capable my colleagues are when working together in our groups.”

Several law students said that the opportunity to assist organizations in the Greensboro community was among the most rewarding aspects of the course.

“As aspiring attorneys it is extremely rewarding to know that our winter term work will be used to help our clients and will make a positive difference in the Greensboro community,” sad Kristen Delforge who worked with the Greensboro Housing Coalition.

“This winter term experience has shown me what quality legal education looks like,” said David Lambert who worked with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth. “Lawyers are paid to solve problems and sometimes that requires training beyond the traditional classroom. By helping my client navigate cumbersome legal obstacles I not only provided direction and encouragement for their specific organization, I made a real and lasting impact in my community. That is what being a lawyer-leader is all about.”

Alan W. Duncan, an attorney with Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP and the president-elect of the North Carolina Bar Association, delivered a keynote address as part of the 2013 winter term leadership program at Elon University School of Law.

“I enjoyed working with a real client within the Greensboro community,” said Brittany Long who worked with Greensboro Housing Coalition. “It was great to feel like I was giving back and really helping the people who need it most.”

“As a second-year student, the experience offered via the winter term gave me and my fellow students the opportunity to apply leadership and law skills we’ve learned throughout our studies at Elon to real clients facing real problems and issues,” said Andrew Scott who worked with The Greensboro Voice. “It is my hope that the support and assistance we delivered to these clients provided a tangible and meaningful service, supporting and assisting them as they strive to overcome their unique challenges. It felt good knowing that my work over winter term supported the local community of Greensboro.”

Students prepare a written memorandum and make an oral presentation to their clients at the conclusion of the course. The teams with the best memorandum and the best presentation for each client were recognized at a leadership luncheon on the final day of the course. President-elect of the North Carolina Bar Association Alan W. Duncan was the keynote speaker at the luncheon.

Elon Law Professor Patricia Perkins, who taught the 2013 Public Law & Leadership course at the law school, delivers remarks at the law school's leadership luncheon.

The 2013 Public Law & Leadership was taught by Elon Law Professor Patricia Perkins. Distinguished Leadership Coach-in-Residence John Alexander led the executive coaching portion of the course. Attorney coaches were Legal Aid of North Carolina attorneys Richard Craig and Lewis Pitts, Bill Eagles, Esq., and Jonathan Wall, Esq. Executive Coaches were Ronnie Grabon, SPHR, BCCProf. Chris Leupold and Prof. Bonnie McAlister. The course was designed originally by Elon Law Professor Faith Rivers James who serves as Director of Leadership Programs at the law school. 

Ellen M. Gregg, a member of Elon University’s Law School Advisory Board and an attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, and Vandana Allman, M.Ed., Chief of Leadership and Executive Development at Womble Carlyle opened the course with a presentation on leadership and law practice. 

Click here for more information on the Leadership Program at Elon Law.