The law clinic's guiding lights. L-R: Professors Stacy Brustin, Margaret Barry, Lisa Martin,
Alvita Eason-Barrow, Dean Veryl V. Miles, Michael McGonnigal, Ellen Scully and Faith Mullen.
Absent is CCLS Director Catherine Klein, who was attending a conference.
A Birthday and a Homecoming for Columbus Community Legal Services
You’ll be around for many more years
With much thankfulness, we give you our cheers
With those words from a poem written for the occasion, 1997 law school alumnus Jerome Woods II (left) perfectly captured the spirit that brought approximately 60 of his fellow alumni back to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of Catholic University’s legal clinic, Columbus Community Legal Services.
Over a three-hour reunion/birthday celebration held on Oct. 9, former clinic students from many class years returned to greet their old professors, renew bonds with classmates, and reflect once again on the cases, causes and clients that for many transformed their view of law from a career to a calling.
“I think of the legal clinic as a perfect opportunity for the private and civic sector to come together to make people’s lives better,” said Michael Eddings, 2001. Eddings described to his breakfast audience a case that made an indelible impression on him as a student: his eventually victorious advocacy for a common-law wife whose husband left her penniless. Eddings and his fellow students successfully persuaded the court to award her half of her husband’s assets.
“That feeling of satisfaction has stayed with me through all of my years of practice,” said Eddings (above left) who also made a donation of $2,000 to the clinic.
Columbus Community Legal Services opened its doors in 1970. For nearly a quarter-century, it operated in a depressed neighborhood on North Capital Street, not far from Union Station.
In 1994 it relocated to its current space within the law school, but its principles did not change with its address. Client privacy is still paramount, and law students, under the supervision of the clinical faculty, still fight like lions on behalf of the poor and the powerless.
“For a place that’s been in operation for 40 years, we’ve had very little turnover. And I think we’ve benefited from that,” said Professor Ellen Scully (below left) who served as the clinic’s director for 25 years before stepping down from the position in 2005.
As the reunion morning unfolded, clinic alumni had the opportunity to share videotaped collections of their own experiences, swap clinical and career stories with each other, and also tour the “new” offices in the law school, work space that some of them had not seen before.
They were also greeted by a fantastic mosaic of photographs depicting hundreds of former clinic students, assembled just outside the office suite for the occasion.
For Linda O’Brien, 1999, the visit brought back memories.
“I wanted to help people, and the clinic was an especially fantastic place to work,” she said. The enduring lesson from her time then? “I learned to get creative. There’s always a solution.”
For 40 years, Columbus Community Legal Services has burnished the reputation of Catholic University’s law school, provided unparalleled experiential learning opportunities for thousands of students, and along the way helped to instill the virtues of compassion, humility and service to others in all who have been associated with it.
Most important, the clinic has pulsed as a beacon of hope to thousands of clients who had no other recourse to justice.
As Professor Scully summed it up before the reunion gathering, “Even if cases didn’t always conclude the way you wanted, the client was still left in a better place.”