Students in the Elder Law Clinic work on actual cases involving guardianship proceedings.
After a guardianship proceeding is initiated by a petitioner – Adult Protective Services (a government agency), a not-for-profit organization or an individual (usually a family member) – the court must appoint a “court evaluator” to investigate the capacity of the person alleged to be incapacitated (the “AIP”) and make recommendations to the judge who hears the case as to whether a guardian should be appointed. The court evaluator recommends in writing an appropriate disposition. Judges appoint an attorney experienced in guardianship matters and a Clinic student who has been assigned to the attorney to serve as court evaluator in each case assigned to the Clinic. The Clinic student works under the supervision of his or her “mentor” lawyer in carrying out the responsibilities of the court evaluator or the court appointed attorney. Each student works under the direct supervision the mentor attorney and will have primary responsibility for the case investigation, preparation of the court evaluator’s.
In some cases the mentor lawyer and the mentee student are appointed as counsel for the AIP. In these cases the lawyer/student role is quite different: the lawyer/student team serves as the AIP’s advocate, seeking to protect the AIP’s rights and wishes, making their own investigation of the case, interviewing parties and witnesses in the performance of their representation, and handling the hearing.
While the appointment of a guardian may be very beneficial to the person who is incapacitated and cannot manage his or her personal or financial affairs, the appointment of a guardian often results of significant loss of rights and independence. Accordingly, students will experience the responsibilities of participating in real cases where these important matters are adjudicated.
Professor Strauss has recruited a group of excellent guardianship attorneys who have volunteered to serve as Clinic mentors. Professor Strauss consults with and supervises the mentors and each student. Student tasks are likely to include:
- interviewing the petitioner, the AIP, and witnesses;
- drafting court papers;
- researching and preparing memos;
- counseling the AIP (when serving as counsel to the AIP);
- appearing in court;
- interviewing and coordinating the work of any medical or social services providers involved in the case; and
- preparing the court evaluator’s report.
- Students study the applicable substantive, procedural, and ethical rules governing guardianship proceedings, and are assigned readings and simulation exercises relevant to the interviewing, investigating, negotiating and counseling tasks that arise in these kinds of cases ( and many other kinds of litigation). Professor Strauss conducts the seminars. A two-hour seminar meets weekly. In addition to meeting with the class and each student with his or her supervising lawyer, Professor Strauss is also available to meet with students as needed. Student should expect to spend from 12-15 hours per week on Clinic work.
Links and Logistics
Spring Semester Only
A paper is required; this requirement may be satisfied by additional case-related work at the discretion of Professor Strauss. Students are required to submit bi-weekly journals.
To Apply to the Elder Law Clinic, please visit the OCEL Application Information Page