Information for Prospective Students
The CEDC provides transactional legal assistance to nonprofits and community-based organizations, and social and creative enterprises in Detroit and throughout southeastern Michigan. Students engage in the supervised practice of law in a professional setting. The CEDC's goals are to provide first-rate legal services to enable our clients to transform their vision into reality, enhance the community, and contribute to the economic vitality of the region, while providing our students the opportunity to enhance their professional capabilities by doing actual "lawyering."
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The CEDC is relevant to students interested in corporate, government, or public interest work. The clinic helps prepare students for work with organizational clients, as well as gives students an introduction to opportunities for transactional attorneys to serve the community, through pro bono, board service, and volunteer work.
The clinic can also satisfy the Capstone requirement for JD/MUP dual-degree students. Please contact the Urban Planning Program for additional information.
You will assume primary responsibility for all matters affecting your clients under close faculty supervision. You will prepare for your client work through an intensive seminar and weekly supervision meetings. The course has three principal components:
You will be responsible for interviewing and counseling clients; planning your matters; drafting legal documents, memos and correspondence; and managing relationships with your clients and others. You will identify the legal issues, research them, consider different alternatives, negotiate agreements, and implement client decisions. Each student team will normally work on several client matters throughout the semester. We try to accommodate, where possible, your particular areas of interest or expertise, but are bound to represent clients that have retained the clinic and feel a responsibility to consider the needs of clients that have requested our assistance. Students will learn various substantive areas of law. Students interact with client CEOs and board members. At times, clinic students provide community education workshops on substantive law issues pertinent to the clinic's practice areas.
We meet twice a week to discuss our work, lawyering skills, and issues facing the community and the region. The weekly seminar is a time for reflection and discussion with a strong emphasis on critical evaluation. We use simulation exercises to explore lawyering skills such as interviewing, counseling, case planning, and negotiation, among others. Part of the seminar is devoted to case rounds, with students discussing what is new and difficult in their cases.
Students typically work in teams of two. The team will meet with their supervisor on a weekly basis. In the seminar and supervision meetings, you will explore important lawyering issues through the lens of your client matters, such as decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, the allocation of power between lawyer and client, and the challenges of representing groups. We will ask you to think through the ethical issues that arise in the matters and in representing organizations. We will ask you to reflect on your work in seminar and through reflection papers.
Some of the CEDC's clients are new nonprofit organizations and social enterprises that need assistance in structuring, developing governance structures, obtaining tax exemption, and complying with government regulations. Others are more established groups that need assistance as their programs grow. For these clients, we may draft and negotiate contracts and leases, create worker-owned cooperatives and social enterprises, counsel groups regarding land use and other regulations, provide tax advice regarding income-generating activities, advise on employment issues, counsel on risk management, and research and advise on copyright and trademark issues. The CEDC represents a broad array of clients, including groups working in urban agriculture and food security, youth development, the sharing economy, and art, media, and artistic production.
You will receive seven credits for the clinic: three for the seminar and four for the client work. Each component is graded separately. The course is graded without a curve. Students are expected to work approximately 20–30 hours per week through the semester (including class preparation and attendance). The clinic has developed an evaluation and grading criteria, which you will receive when you enroll in the clinic. Grades for the seminar take into account class attendance, participation, and preparation for exercises. In grading your client work, we will consider the quality of work you produce, success in collaboration, demonstrated professionalism and effort, reflectiveness, and "billable" hours, among other factors.
Registration for the clinic happens through the clinic registration process. There are no formal prerequisites for the clinic. The substantive law of enterprise organizations, tax, nonprofit, land use, intellectual property, and employment are often used in client work. Prior experience in business or corporate law is not necessary.
STUDENTS CURRENTLY OR RECENTLY ENROLLED IN THE CLINIC
Lauren del Valle
Sarah Thompson, Advanced
"My experience with the clinic was among the most valuable of my time in law school; no other law school class or activity prepared me for practice as effectively as my work in the clinic. It allowed me to work with unique clients with diverse legal needs, exposed me to complicated ethical scenarios, and forced me to explore my own strengths and weaknesses as a lawyer.
"The clients the CEDC takes on are immensely rewarding to work with. The clinic's clients engage in grassroots community development work in distressed communities. These groups need a wide variety of legal services, and the clinic allowed me to personally work on issues ranging from environmental impact statements to criminal trespass. I can't think of another client base that provides the breadth of issues as the clients in the CEDC.
"The professors in the CEDC allowed me to essentially manage my own practice. From my first client meeting, I was required to balance my clients' needs with my other classes and activities, and to ensure that my projects proceeded to completion. While the professors and my classmates provided valuable guidance and input, the decisions on my cases were my own to make, which allowed me to grow tremendously as a lawyer. I learned a lot about how to interact with different clients, how to monitor my own workflow, and also how to create boundaries in my practice and my personal life. These lessons—on top of the practical legal experience I gained—helped prepare me for practice beyond law school."
—Tim Cunningham, '09
Associate, Davis Wright Tremaine
"What I got from the CEDC was an experience driven by my clients' needs, and shaped by careful guidance of my professors. The first shock of my semester came with the amount of direction and control that my clinic partner and I had over representing our clients. Our professor asked pointed questions and provided advice, but it was up to us to create our timelines, set the agenda, and determine what to do and how best to go about solving our clients' problems. I was also surprised by how personal the practice of law could be. We had to work to establish relationships with our clients, build trust, and get information from them by asking the right questions. We discovered that representing a client isn't like taking a law school exam; the facts you need aren't on the page, and sometimes the client doesn't know or appreciate the legal significance of those facts. My involvement in CEDC…made my legal education complete."
—Kelvin Lawrence, '07
Associate, Baker Hostetler
"My participation in the CEDC was the most valuable educational experience that I took away from my time at Michigan Law. Not only does the clinic provide an opportunity to build life lawyering skills, it gives students interested in a wide range of areas—from housing to government to cities in general—the chance to learn the ins and outs of representing clients in a challenging urban environment. The Michigan Law Quad may be unparalleled in the caliber of its faculty and the quality of its architecture, but Detroit is truly the greatest classroom."
—Margaret Hayden, '10
Associate, Paul Weiss
New York, NY