Winter 2015 Newsletter

Featured 2016 Summer Clerkship Site: Youth Law Project

The Youth Law Project (YLP) is a substantive unit of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. The YLP represents Hennepin County youth in connection with civil legal matters including:  child protection issues; independent living and emancipation; school suspension; and access to education. Their clients range from very young children facing inappropriate and unnecessary placement in foster care to older teenagers who left home due to abuse and who need help establishing their legal right to safe housing, public benefits, medical and mental health care, and an education. Clerks are assigned a variety of tasks, depending on the interests of the clerk and the current case load of the YLP. The clerk works as part of the YLP team that includes three lawyers and two advocates.
From Rebecca Stillman (UMN 3L), summer clerkship recipient at Youth Law Project in 2015:
My summer clerkship was invaluable in the wide variety of legal work I got to participate in and experience. I was able to visit schools and speak with youth regarding any legal issues they might have. I would also be able to do follow-up research on questions clients had regarding a wide variety of legal issues — everything from obtaining MFIP benefits for their children to how to apply for federal loans.  
One of the most rewarding aspects of my experience was being able to work with the immigration unit with some of their unaccompanied minors cases. As the number of unaccompanied minors entering the United States increases, there is a lot of new law developing in this area of the legal field. I was able to conduct a lot of new research on a variety of issues facing youth immigrants going through both the immigration process as well as the juvenile justice process. Through this work, I was able to visit youth in a variety of settings, and witness trials in juvenile court. These experiences also enabled me to participate in office meetings with the directors and head litigators at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid — an opportunity that was incredibly informative about how to approach legal proceedings for our clients.  
Being able to participate in interactions with a variety of clients, view different attorneys work product, and observe juvenile court was a tremendous learning opportunity for me. My supervising attorneys as well as the other attorneys at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid were incredibly supportive, and always available if I had any questions. Being able to be a Minnesota Justice Foundation Summer Clerk has enabled me to learn a tremendous amount of legal skills that I will continue to use throughout my time as a public interest law clerk and public interest attorney.   

Street Law

Street Law is a program of MJF which gives law students the opportunity to teach legal rights, responsibilities, and resources to middle school and high school students. The teaching is done primarily in alternative learning centers and charter schools. The program is a prime example of the “win-win” nature of MJF’s work. The younger students gain a wonderful learning opportunity, while the law students gain the opportunity to serve their community and learn more about the law in preparation for teaching it.

The law students are required to attend an extensive training over a weekend in January. The training covers substantive legal topics taught by legal service attorneys. The students are also trained in cultural competency, lesson planning, and how to engage the students.

Following the training, the law students meet with the classroom teachers to discuss what legal topics will be covered during the semester. The students teach in teams of two or three during the course of spring semester. Some of the teaching opportunities culminate in a mock trial.

During the spring 2016 semester, 52 law students have expressed interest in participating in the program. We anticipate placing them in twenty classrooms. Most of the classrooms have hosted Street Law in the past, and have found the program to be valuable to their students. A teacher who works with young adults who are transitioning into independent living stated, “Thanks you so much for working with this program. I cannot stress enough how much it has meant for our students in the past.”

Board member profile: Jennifer Stohl Powell

Jenny Stohl PowellThe Minnesota Justice Foundation (MJF) would like to thank Jennifer Stohl Powell for her twelve years of service on our Board of Directors.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1996, and later successfully pursued a Master’s degree in nonprofit management from Hamline University in 2008. As a law student, Jennifer received funding from MJF to spend a summer in Guatemala volunteering for the Center for Human Rights Legal Action.

After graduating law school, Jennifer became an attorney at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) where she has been ever since. She is currently a member of the SMRLS senior leadership team and supervises the immigration and farmworker unit, where she has developed an expertise in handling immigration cases for Latino domestic violence victims. “It is hard but rewarding work.”

Jennifer joined the MJF Board of Directors in 2003, and has served in multiple leadership roles, including Vice President from 2008-2010 and President from 2010-2012. From 2004-07, she co-chaired the Annual Awards Celebration Committee, where she helped plan many highly successful dinners. She also co-chaired the Charities Review Council Committee from 2012-2015, which helped MJF meet the CRC’s rigorous accountability standards.

When asked what she liked best about working with MJF, Jennifer stated that she had enjoyed working with MJF law clerks each summer. “I’ve worked with 19 different law clerks as an attorney at SMRLS. Each law clerk brings so much energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to serving low-income immigrant and refugee clients.” Jennifer believes that SMRLS gains a lot from MJF law clerks, and likes to think that SMRLS makes a positive impact on their professional development. “I enjoy working with law students and find their enthusiasm and idealism contagious. I try to be a good mentor and share important lessons that I’ve learned over the years.” Jennifer considers her service on MJF’s Board of Directors “as a way to give back to an agency that does so much to support nonprofit legal services for low-income clients.”

When asked if she had a specific memory she would like to share, Jennifer mentioned that she was part of the great “salad” debate. “Let’s just say that Tim [Goodman] won and anyone on the Board at that time will know what I am talking about.”

We will miss Jennifer. Her steady commitment and dedication to MJF has been a significant factor in  MJF’s success over the years. We gratefully acknowledge her efforts, thank her and wish her well.