UM law clinics foster public interest

Recent statements have characterized the Clinical Law Program at the University of Maryland School of Law as a powerful institution bankrupting a family farm through environmental litigation really aimed at the "deep pockets" of Perdue. These statements demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the breadth and heart of the Clinical Law Program. As co-directors of the program, we want to set the record straight.

Our program has twenty-three faculty and over 250 students who provide more than 110,000 hours of free legal representation a year to people who otherwise would not have a lawyer. We practice throughout the state of Maryland in virtually every substantive area. We work with public schools to improve conflict resolution policies, families facing foreclosure or unfair debt collection practices, individuals fleeing persecution in their home countries, individual and families impacted by HIV and start-up companies who cannot afford lawyers. We help low income taxpayers, and this year alone more than 225 low income families recovered more than $236,000 in federal tax refunds. We also we work with farmers on the Eastern Shore who are trying to ensure that their family farms are properly titled and documented to remain in their families for future generations. Our program is regularly ranked as one of the very best in the country, and the breadth and scope of our work for people in need is a critical reason why.

Our program provides a vital service to the citizens of Maryland and life-changing experiences for our students. Our students learn that our clients come to us because no other lawyer will provide representation -- we are the lawyers of last resort. We seek to advance the public interest and work for the common good. We are deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve the citizens of this state and to be a part of educating the next generation of lawyers to have a deep commitment to public service.

Brenda Bratton Blom and Michael Pinard, Baltimore

The writers are co-directors of the Clinical Law Program at the University of Maryland School of Law.