Idaho attorneys and law students have a lega-eagle eye on Monday, Feb. 11. That's when they'll launch the Treasure Valley's newest resource for pro bono legal aid: the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association's monthly Street Law Clinic, to be held at the Main Branch of the Boise Public Library.
"I just think it's a great opportunity for Boise," said Jane Gordon, a third-year student in the University of Idaho law program. "I think we need a walk-in street law clinic for anyone to come to, and I think it's also a good hands-on for students."
After graduation, Gordon said she is interested in employment law and prosecuting. For now, she and Eben Massingill, a student at Concordia University School of Law, serve as liaisons to their student bodies, both of which are filled with students interested in participating to advance their education. According to Gordon, it's a chance not only for students to work but to give back.
"They're interested in getting involved on a community level," she said. "And it's a chance to practice law. We don't necessarily get a lot of hands-on practice, and so it's a chance to help people, and it's a chance to get in there and work with the law."
As the student body association vice president, Idaho Women Lawyers board member and City of Boise intern, Gordon has a lot on her plate. But she was excited to be a part of the street law clinic.
As was Massingill, who just finished his first semester as part of the inaugural class at Concordia and plans to eventually take over his father's general law practice in Weiser.
"We have a lot of interest in it," said Massingill. "We've probably got 20 people who want to be in the clinic right now."
According to organizers with the ITLA, the first clinic will be staffed by two supervising attorneys and three to six law students, as organized by Gordon and Massingill.
Erika Birch, attorney with the employment and labor law firm of Strindberg & Scholnick, is helping organize the clinics and said local attorneys are just as eager as students.
"We have plenty of lawyers, most of them ITLA members, who are chomping at the bit, essentially, to volunteer," Birch said.
Each client visiting the clinic will fill out an intake form before meeting with a law student to provide basic details of his or her legal issue. Students will then confer with supervising attorneys to determine the best course of action.
"It's a collaboration between the law student and the lawyer," said Birch. "But the law student is the first person the client will have contact with."
Birch said organizers identified 10-12 different legal areas that might show up at the clinic and she anticipates clients will bring issues concerning collection actions, landlord-tenant issues and family law concerns, including custody and divorce. Birch said she's not sure what the turnout will be, but the ITLA is working to spread the word.
"If we have a bunch of people who show up, that's great. Obviously, our intention is to try to fill this void and this gap, so we'd love it if we have the demand to have more clinics," she said. "It may be something that takes a while to catch on. If we only have one to two people who show up, that won't discourage us."