School of Law opens Immigration Law Clinic

The School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis has launched a new immigration clinic, aimed at helping students learn how to handle immigration matters affecting low- to moderate-income people.

“The goal of the Immigration Law Clinic is to provide upper-level law students hands-on experience working with clients to resolve their immigration legal issues,” said Katie Meyer, assistant professor of practice and director of the clinic.

“Law students will learn the essential skills of lawyering that will prepare them to practice law in any settings,” she said. “Specifically, students will learn the complexities of U.S. immigration law through the direct practice of representing non-U.S. citizens and their families.”

The launch of the new clinic brings to 18 the number of clinical courses available to law students at the university.

“The need for an immigration law clinic has never been higher,” said Robert Kuehn, professor of law and associate dean for clinical education, citing the work and influence of Stephen H. Legomsky, the John S. Lehmann University Professor Emeritus and a former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“Our students have long been interested in immigration law, drawn in large part by Professor Legomsky’s renowned expertise in the field of immigration law,” Kuehn said. “Student interest has grown even larger in recent years, as immigration issues have become front-page legal battles, and students want to get involved and accurately understand this complex field of law.”

The school’s law clinics provide free legal assistance to underrepresented individuals and organizations that cannot otherwise afford legal representation while also working to benefit Missouri and Illinois communities. For instance, a clinic such as this one also serves as an additional source of high-quality free immigration legal services in the St. Louis area.

“My hope is that the clinic will provide a much-needed service to the many immigrant communities in the St. Louis region and, at the same time, educate new attorneys in the highly-specialized practice of immigration law and in the importance of providing pro bono representation,” Meyer said.

“Through the Immigration Law Clinic, access to representation will be increased and new lawyers will emerge from law school ready to tackle difficult cases and with a better understanding of the needs of the immigrant communities in our region.”

Students enrolled in law clinics develop important professional skills as members of professional legal teams. Under the direction of clinical program faculty, clinic students provide legal advice and litigation or transactional assistance to clients on a wide range of legal matters: from individual disputes or transactions, to complex litigation and policy advocacy, to creating property rights in intellectual property, to advising the development of new legal entities and organizational policies.

Washington University law students were the driving force behind the opening of the Immigration Law Clinic, Meyer noted.

“The first group of students are highly qualified and highly motivated to make the clinic a success,” Meyer said. “I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”

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