The Children's Justice Clinic was one of the main elements that attracted me to Rutgers School of Law - Camden. Yet, while I shared a passion for its goals and mission before entering law school, I could not have foreseen that this opportunity would exceed my expectations in every way. Participating in Clinic has been the most rewarding and challenging experience I have been presented with, and I have found it to be both eye-opening and career-defining.
Through the Children's Justice Clinic, I have developed practical lawyering skills that are simply unattainable in the classroom setting. Working under the supervision of Professors Lore and Simkins, my partner and I conducted discovery and client interviews, negotiated with a Camden County prosecutor, made strategic decisions affecting our client's case, prepared cross examinations and detention arguments, and began to develop our courtroom presence and the confidence needed to become an effective advocate.
This opportunity to engage in hands-on representation is priceless for any law student. Not only do I feel much more prepared to enter the practice of law, but have gained valuable skills and experience that have helped to set me apart and interest employers in this difficult job market. Furthermore, I have realized that a possible career may lie ahead for me in criminal defense and public interest, which I had never before considered. At the same time, I have been able to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our clients, by providing much-needed legal service to them during a time of crisis when a significant loss of liberty hangs in the balance.
Most importantly, our work in the Children's Justice Clinic does not start and end at the courtroom door. By identifying our clients' needs and goals, and helping them to obtain services and get their lives on a positive track, I have seen young clients faced with delinquency problems and seemingly insurmountable odds, begin to envision a meaningful future for themselves. There are simply no words to capture the feeling of making a difference in a young person’s life. The Children's Justice Clinic is an asset to both the Camden community and Rutgers School of Law. I would recommend that every student, no matter their aspiration, experience this program during their study of law. Without question, it has been the highlight of my legal education!
Christine Emery, Class of 2011
The Children’s Justice Clinic was a life-changing and career-reaffirming experience for me. When I first enrolled in the clinic, I was not sure of what I was getting into. Until that time I had never considered a legal career that involved arguing much in court or in working with criminal clients. Working in the Clinic made me see that I could actually help people. I had a real-world experience that took me into the courtroom to make arguments, and brought me in touch with real people who need help. It goes beyond that though. I gained so many valuable skills in clinic. I learned how to do better research, improved my writing (ten-fold), learned extremely valuable advocacy skills, got real court experience, and discovered that a career in public service could really suit me. What I mean is that Children’s Justice Clinic single-handedly changed my career path. My goals have re-focused on advocacy for those who have a Constitutional right to a defense because of my experience in the Children’s Justice Clinic.
In addition to giving students a strong foundation for going into advocacy roles, Professors John C. Lore and Sandra Simkins have developed an environment in which students can work to pro-actively prevent wrongs in the juvenile justice system. The Clinic provides holistic representation, meaning that they represent the client throughout the process beyond sentencing, through incarceration, and beyond as long as the individual is under 18. Because of this dynamic legal representation, the Clinic is able to prevent wrongs at all levels of the adjudication process and beyond including prevention of mistreatment of juveniles during their terms of incarceration. The Clinic is an important and meaningful resource for the surrounding New Jersey community, and I found working in the Clinic to be an honor, and a life-changing experience.
Jessica Lynch Mackner
The clinic is an incredible experience for a law student to have. This class should be required for all 3L's before they can graduate. The practical experience I've gained from this short semester feels more valuable than anything I have learned thus far. The opportunity to practice law with guidance before graduating law school is the most valuable training I can imagine. Aside from the learning experience, the ability and opportunity to help someone in need is very rewarding as well.
Bill Wright, Civil Practice Clinic, Class of 2008
"Having the opportunity to spend my last year in law school working in the domestic violence and advanced domestic violence clinics put my legal training in perspective and allowed me to put into practice what I learned in the classroom. There is a big difference between reading about parties and events in case books and experiencing the anguish, stress, need and joy of a tangible client to whom you provided real legal services. Working in the clinic, while challenging and time consuming, is addictive in that once you taste the exhilaration of practicing in a real courtroom in front of a real judge and adversary, you want more and welcome the chance to make a difference in a person's life that otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity of legal aid. If trial practice is of interest to you and you want to help those in need, the domestic violence clinic provides that access to the law that students wouldn't ordinarily have during their education. Clinic is an invaluable course that every student should take advantage of during law school."
Jason Levoy, Class of 2008
"Prior to participating in the Domestic Violence Clinic, my legal experiences were limited to reading cases from casebooks and giving legal information to plaintiffs for the Domestic Violence Project. While I was in the Domestic Violence Clinic I had the opportunity to meet with clients, establish attorney-client relationships, request documents, issue subpoenas, participate in settlement negotiations, go to trial, and handle post-judgment motions. The Domestic Violence Clinic is the perfect stepping-stone for entering into the legal field - students handle all aspects of their case, but if they run into a snag or want to bounce some ideas around, they have access to an experienced attorney (Professor Chase) and their fellow clinic students. I highly recommend the Domestic Violence Clinic because it gives students the confidence and experience to represent clients in court."
Greg Tomlison, Class of 2008
"The Children's Justice Clinic was the highlight of my law school experience at Rutgers. It was an incredibly rewarding and challenging program that put me directly in the role of a lawyer and an advocate representing juveniles in Camden - under the supervision of a practicing attorney, of course. The breadth of areas my partner and I experienced was amazing. In just one of our three cases during the semester, we had the opportunity to conduct an initial intake interview with a client, negotiate a plea deal with a Camden County prosecutor, prepare for and conduct a full trial, and argue a disposition before a judge, all while maintaining constant contact with the client and ensuring his continued well-being. The Children's Justice Clinic provides excellent training and experience for future practicing attorneys.
What makes the Clinic even more special is the goal embodying its creation - to help juveniles living in one of the most impoverished cities in America who are in trouble and in need of holistic representation by working with them to create better opportunities for their lives. Under the guidance and supervision of Professors Simkins and Lore, we had an opportunity to directly experience the challenges and troubles faced by the youth in the greater Camden community outside the walls of our law school. The passion and commitment both professors brought to the Clinic empowered us to realize that we as mere law students could effect positive change. I am excited to see the outstanding work Professors Simkins and Lore along with future Clinic students continue to perform for the youth of Camden in the coming years."
Jon Pentzien, Class of 2007
CJC is a must-take course for students looking to get out of class and begin practicing law. I came looking for trial experience, and I found myself and my partner conducting discovery, interviewing potential witnesses, visiting the scene where our client was arrested, creating exhibits, making strategic decisions like deciding whether our client would take the stand, scripting and practicing cross examinations, and conducting a full trial. We actually got to cross examine a New Jersey State Trooper. And we did all of this with years of liberty at stake for our clients.
But it's not all about trial. I worked on several cases with my partner over the course of the term. We interviewed and counseled our clients as well as our clients, parents and guardians. We met with probation officers. We represented clients at pre-trial hearings. We negotiated with prosecutors. We represented clients at post-trial proceedings. And we found creative ways to make sure our clients were getting the services they needed.
Not only did we get great practical experience, but we had an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of our clients as well as on the juvenile justice system in Camden County. I saw demeanors change when people realized they were interacting with people who cared.