Clayton Sevy, a 3L at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, is currently enrolled in a clinic at the Legal Aid Society, his second clinical experience through the College of Law’s Civil Clinic program.
In the interview below, he explains how his hands-on experience at Open Legal Services and Legal Aid will better prepare him to represent clients, shares his observation that law is more complicated than he once thought, and relates how his time as a high school athlete helped him to prepare for a legal career by teaching him to “practice how he plays.”
Q: This is the second Civil Clinic you have done through the College of Law. From that, it’s probably safe to assume that the clinic you did last year at Open Legal Services (OLS) was a good experience. So how are the clinical experiences different from one another, and how are you able to use what you learned at OLS at the Legal Aid Society (LAS)?
At OLS I was exposed to a wide variety of law including: family–divorce, custody, and criminal–defense of mainly misdemeanors. I mostly observed, but I was able to participate in client interviews and case strategy. At my current clinic, at LAS, I appear in court four days a week where I argue in front of the commissioner for domestic violence protective orders.
The two experience mainly differ in that at LAS I can practice law under the third year practice rule and under the supervision of another attorney. Also, at LAS I have greatly benefited from the interviewing and case strategy skills that I learned at OLS
Q: You mentioned in one of your reports that the practice of law is much more difficult than you had once thought. What led you to this conclusion, and in what ways is it more complex?
A: In the vacuum of the classroom, students are able to focus and attack one issue at a time. In the courtroom you have to remember the proper language in addressing the court, the procedural rules, and legal rules. However, these difficulties and complexities that I am experiencing in court are giving me the real skills and confidence that I will employ as a lawyer.
Q: How do you think your Civil Clinic experiences have prepared you for practice? For example, what advantages have you gained as a result of counseling clients, working with opposing counsel, negotiating, or other clinical experiences you have had?
A: I grew up in Texas playing sports, mainly football and wrestling. Coach Kaneki would always tell us, “practice how you play.”
Working in real life situations with real life clients is “practicing how you play.” In sports, at practice, if you mess up your coach is there to help you get better by giving constructive feedback to allow for improvement in the future. The College of Law’s clinical program has captured this sentiment of practicing how you are going to play and providing a coach that provides constructive feedback in real time.
When I show up on day one after passing the bar I will feel confident in my abilities to practice law because of my experiences with the College of Law’s clinical program. This is because I have had the experience at OLS and LAS to work with real clients and real situations while supervised by an experienced attorney.
Q: What is your favorite part of the clinic at the Legal Aid Society?
A: Putting on a suit everyday. LOL!
Q; What have you learned from your supervisors in the clinic? For example, in one report you noted that the supervisors were available and attentive when you had questions. Can you describe a specific instance in which they were able to help you strategize, learn from a past performance, etc.?
A: My supervisor has taught me how to make an objection and when it would be proper to do so. Just this morning my supervisor and I were in court, the case being argued was not ours, my supervisor leaned over to me and said “I would have objected to hearsay there; those affidavits that attorney is talking about are clearly hearsay.”
Q: Would you encourage your fellow students to enroll in the Civil Clinic?
A clinic is time well spent. It would be a grave shame if a student chose not to enroll in the Civil Clinic because they would miss out on all the practical experience they would get there.
In sports, why would you wan to go into a game without practicing like you were going to play? It’s the same for attorneys, why would you want to go into a firm, or courtroom without ever practicing like you were going to preform there. It just doesn’t make sense not to take advantage of the College of Law’s Civil Clinic.