The Catholic University of America



Clinical Skills Provide a Big Career Boost, say Alumni


Litigating cases every day. Learning how to prioritize work, gather evidence, speak before a judge, negotiate, and communicate with different kinds of people.
All of these skills are learned through doing, and the clinical opportunities available through Columbus Community Legal Services (CCLS) offer students the invaluable chance to polish those talents and put them to work in their future careers as lawyers.
Four recent alumni of Catholic University’s law school attested to this when they returned on Oct. 2 to discuss “The Marketability of Practical Experience,” a talk sponsored by Columbus Community Legal Services and The Office of Career and Professional Development.
The speakers urged current students to seize the opportunity to work in the law school’s clinic and immerse themselves in all it has to offer, whether or not they plan on litigation or public service work later.
 “I don’t think I would have gotten my clerkship without taking the clinic,” said Kristen Eliason, 2009. Eliason works as a non-profit attorney litigating domestic violence cases for the House of Ruth in Maryland, following an earlier clerkship with judges Janet E. Albert and Mary Grace Rook at DC Superior Court.
The four distinct clinical courses under the CCLS umbrella - the General Practice Clinic; the Families and the Law Clinic; the Advocacy for the Elderly Clinic; and the Consumer Protection Project - offer an amazing variety of skills and networking opportunities that supplement the overall law school experience, according to the alumni panel. 


“You need to recognize that the clinic is very complementary to what you’re learning in other classes,” said Patrick Jordan, 2007. Jordan, who was a student in the General Practice Clinic, will soon leave the Department of Housing and Urban Development to work at Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit intermediary that creates opportunity for low-and-moderate-income people through affordable housing in diverse communities.  

The four panel speakers said that the hands-on skills they developed through working in the clinic were equaled only by the emotional satisfaction of its mission.
Class of 2011 graduate Melissa Nonaka, who now works at a full-service immigration law firm, recalled the long hours and the bonding with fellow students as they prepared to represent a client at trial.  “It was fun to belong to and stay in the clinic, and make it your own space,” she said. 

Nonaka’s classmate Robert Yates, who serves as a policy analyst working to implement state health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, was asked to recount his fondest memory of the CCLS experience. His answer could speak for nearly every student who has ever worked in the clinic. “Every time you see you can help someone, it feels great,” said Yates.