The Catholic University of America



Laila Leigh (left) with Professor Catherine Klein, director of
Columbus Community Legal Services; (right) Carisa Bergen.


Two Class of 2010 Graduates are Recognized with CLEA Awards


It never hurts to begin a new career having already won a prestigious award. Laila Leigh and Carisa Bergen, who graduated from the Columbus School of Law on May 28, were recognized just weeks before commencement with Outstanding Student Awards from the Clinical Legal Education Association.
The two former students were nominated for their work by the faculty of the law school’s legal clinic, Columbus Community Legal Services.
Leigh earned academic credit for her work in the Families and the Law sub-clinic. Her nominating papers to the CLEA committee read in part:
“Laila Leigh put in countless hours of work for her clients. She developed deep, personal relationships with each of her clients. She researched complex issues about immigration and domestic violence and prepared tirelessly for all aspects of her clients’ts cases. Her clients’ cases were complicated and demanding. In addition, each of them faced many personal challenges. In recognition of this, Laila assisted them in hundreds of small and large ways: she accompanied them to meetings with prosecutors and with immigration offices, she arranged for interpreters for meetings and phone calls, she advocated at her client’s children’s school when problems arose, she went to her client’s job or home in order to accommodate her client’s demanding schedule. In each of her three semesters with the clinic, Laila worked collaboratively with student partners. She formed strong, effective relationships with them as well. In all her work, Laila did not let up and never compromised her work on client matters.”
Bergen’s professors commended her efforts in the general practice clinic:
“Carisa Bergen handled virtually every kind of case that comes through our office door. These included disputes over unpaid insurance claims, child support, intra-family property squabbles, collecting a judgment from a fly-by-night home improvement contractor, tax problems, unpaid medical bills, credit reporting errors and estate planning. She handled every aspect of her cases from the initial client interview to arguing a case before an Administrative Law Judge. In that particular matter, she obtained more than $25,000 in retroactive benefits from the Social Security Administration. Most of her clients were aged residents of the lowest income neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. One of her clients suffers from schizophrenia. Another is a deaf-mute man with almost no formal education and no training in standard sign language. Through her patience, tact and persistence, Ms. Bergen is able to give these clients the high level of advocacy that they deserve.”
“Both students are highly deserving of this honor,” said CCLS director Catherine Klein.