Earlier this year, over spring break, a small group of LL.M. students traveled to Chicago to participate in the Chicago Service Project. The program is designed to provide LL.M. students with valuable hands on experience in a variety of legal areas. Partnering with organizations in the city, the Chicago Service Project provides an opportunity for students to work directly with assigned attorneys and to meet and speak with leaders in the Chicago legal market.
During their time in the Chicago Service Project, the LL.M. volunteer advocates are expected to attend all introductory training programs with respective Service Project Partners, assist with document filing and limited research, help complete client intake forms, communicate with respective agency program managers, work interactively with assigned attorneys, and submit a final reflection paper of the week’s experience.
Judge Charles Reynard worked with the students and helped them secure their placements. He arranged for two judges and two private practitioners to provide the students an opportunity to observe their work in action.
Reynard spoke very highly of the program: “The feedback the students furnished was quite positive. It was also a learning experience for me, observing how other judges actually conduct business, how they analyze cases, and how cases involving real-world disputes involving down-to-earth people receive extraordinary care and attention in the justice process. I am looking forward to next year's CSP and I will be trying to line up the same placements as well as several more. The clinical dimension of the educational experience partners quite effectively with the classroom experience.”
The four student participants in the program this year were Eva-Maria Streeck, Lu Wang, Qiaoyuan Zhi, and Li Ding.
Qiaoyuan Zhi spent the week working with two attorneys who specialize in family law. Of her experience, she said, “I really appreciate that both lawyers allowed me to try different tasks in the courtroom and the law firm, and gave me many chances to do real work such as drafting responses and judgment of allocation of parental responsibilities rather than merely observe. The one-week experience made knowledge I gained from courses such as Civil Procedures, Contracts, Professional Responsibility, Fundamental Accounting of Lawyers become vivid and practical.
In addition, my supervisors showed me what a lawyer should present in their daily job, such as great energy and passion (since lawyers frequently work overtime even without a lunch break), great patience and empathy when communicating with different clients, great wisdom and foresight to consider strategy.”
Li Ding spent her week in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago. During her time there, she observed a jury trial of a product liability case, four bench trials of battery misdemeanor cases, and a guilty plea in a criminal proceeding.
Ding said, “The experience was great because I spent five days with two different judges who were both professional, kind and inspiring. I learned a lot about the American adversarial system and jury trials, which are quite different in my home country. Lawyers in America have much more burden to investigate and develop their cases. They have to be diligent, competent and ethical. This experience gave me ideas of how the American legal system looks and why legal professionals are respected.”