Martha Mannix and the State of Pitt Law's Clinics

In the most recent issue of Clinic Matters, the newsletter of Pitt Law's clinics, Professor Martha Mannix, Co-Director of Clinical Programs, summarized the current state of the clinics: The clinical program at Pitt Law is quickly approaching its 20th anniversary. Formally initiated in 1990, when the faculty hired David Herring to create a Child Welfare Clinic and write grants to expand the clinical program, the clinics have expanded from that modest beginning to the six in-house clinics we have today and three Practicums. The Community Economic Development Clinic, Elder Law Clinic, Environmental Law Clinic, Family Law Clinic, Health Law Clinic and Taxpayer Clinic all find their homes in-house on the fifth floor of the University’s Sennott Square Building. The three Practicums- the collaborations with NLSA and SPLAS (in Washington County) and the brand new Unemployment Compensation Practicum- are located outside the law school and staffed by practicing attorneys acting as adjunct faculty members. All of these clinical experiences provide students with a rich opportunity to develop and refine their practical lawyering skills by representing individuals who would otherwise go unrepresented. The initial growth of the clinical program was fueled by federal grant funds from the Department of Education. When those grant programs ended, the Clinics were the fortunate recipients of Pennsylvania IOLTA funds, which currently support in part the operations of the Health and Elder Law Clinics and our partnerships with the local legal services agencies. The IRS, recognizing the unmet legal need of the working poor, has funded the Taxpayer Clinic for almost 10 years. Private foundations have generously supported the work of the Family Law, CED and Environmental Law Clinics. We are following with interest the proposed federal Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009, which would authorize the Department of Education to again make grants to expand law school clinics while at the same time increasing funding for LSC. This year we were able to expand the Clinical offerings by creating the Unemployment Compensation Practicum, which relies on the talents of adjunct faculty members John Stember and Steve Pincus. This year we were fortunate to add to our Clinic faculty Professor Emily Collins, who supervises students in the Environmental Law Clinic. Professor Collins cut her clinical teeth as a student at Pace Law School’s highly regarded Environmental Litigation Clinic, and went on to work in the Office of Public Interest Counsel of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, where she practiced in the areas of water, air, and waste permitting. Professor Collins has drawn on unparalleled and continued support from the Heinz Endowments to design a truly interdisciplinary clinic that teaches students to work effectively in cross-disciplinary teams that provide legal and technical assistance to groups and individuals with environmental and community health concerns in the region.

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