Clinics

Detroit Mercy Law is proud of its clinical program, one of a small number of required clinical programs in the country.

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History of Detroit Mercy Law Clinics

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    History

    Founded initially as the Urban Law Clinic in 1965, it was among the earliest clinics in the nation. Since that time, the program has flourished receiving numerous awards including the ABA Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access with Meritorious Recognition in 2012, and the ABA Law Student Division’s Judy M. Weightman Memorial Public Interest Award in 2006. Most recently, the Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic was awarded The Ilene and Michael Shaw Public Service Award, an award chosen by Federal Bar Association chapters nationwide.  

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    Location

    The Detroit Mercy Law clinical program resides in the George J. Asher Law Clinic Center, a converted firehouse built in 1910.  The firehouse was renovated and converted for our clinical program due to a gift from Detroit Mercy Law alumnus Anthony Asher, the heirs of Walter Buhl Ford III and the McGregor Fund, and many other generous donors.

    For further information or questions about our Clinical Program, call (313) 596-0262. 

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Clinics for Upper-Level Students

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    Appellate Advocacy Clinic, State Appellate Defenders Office (SADO)

    Students will work on plea appeals and will prepare a criminal appellate brief to be submitted to the circuit court, Michigan Court of Appeals or Michigan Supreme Court under the supervision of attorneys from the State Appellate Defender Office. The students will meet with the client (at the prison or jail or by means of video conference), will prepare motions and briefs, and will have the chance to argue in the circuit court and/or Court of Appeals pursuant to Michigan Court Rule 8.120.

    More Information about the SADO Clinic
    The State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) handles indigent felony appeals from all 83 counties in the state. 

    Student Kevin McLean wrote a brief for the Michigan Court of Appeals challenging computer and Internet restrictions imposed on a SADO Clinic client as a condition of that client's probation. The Court of Appeals initially denied leave to appeal, but the Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case for review by the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals vacated the probation condition that restricted the client from owning, possessing or using a computer or device capable of connecting to the Internet, and remanded for a hearing to determine whether the Internet restrictions were warranted and, if so, for the trial court to tailor those conditions to the individualized rehabilitation needs of the client/defendant. The case can be found by clicking here.  

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    Appellate Veterans Law

    Students represent disabled veterans and/or their dependents before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) in disability compensation appellate cases. Students will have the opportunity to obtain appellate litigation experience while performing pro bono service. They will also be learning the expectations, methods and technical aspects of representation before the CAVC. The CAVC Clinic will integrate administrative law and forensic medicine and develop the law and facts to pursue appeals by writing and filing the opening briefs and reply briefs for the Appellant. 

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    Criminal Trial Clinic

    Students represent misdemeanor defendants in district courts. The course prepares students for all practical aspects of criminal defense, including bonds, arraignments, discovery, preliminary examinations, pre-trial motions, plea negotiations, and sentencing guidelines.

    More Information about the Criminal Trial Clinic
    Carly Babi '18, a past student in the Criminal Trial Clinic, successfully convinced the district court judge and prosecutor to dismiss a Retail Fraud conviction that posed a barrier to employment for a young woman who could not obtain a nursing certificate after she graduated from college because of this conviction. 

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    Environmental Law Clinic

    Students will learn how to affect regulatory policy in all three branches of state/provincial and federal government. The clinic provides students with an opportunity to learn the regulatory process and to impact policy development. Students may have the opportunity to research and develop legislative proposals at the request of lawmakers and public interest organizations, and bring enforcement actions to set new precedents for the application of existing statutes and regulations to emerging environmental problems.

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    Family Law Clinic

    Under the supervision of experienced family law practitioners, students will represent individuals in family law matters before the Wayne County Circuit Court. Students will interview clients, determine potential domestic relations issues, research potential solutions, draft pleadings, and work with clients and the court to resolve these issues. Students will have the opportunity to appear on the record.

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    Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic

    The Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic will provide limited scope legal assistance to indigent and low-income non-prisoner pro se litigants at no cost to the litigants. Available client services will include pre-screening of cases for federal court jurisdiction; assistance clarifying claims and amending the complaint; education of litigants as to the court process and available forms; assistance completing forms; assistance with discovery and motion; advice on substantive and procedural matters; legal research; limited drafting of pleadings, and assistance at other stages of the proceedings.

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    Housing Law Clinic

    Evictions are a major contribution to the homeless problem in Detroit and the growing deterioration of properties in many communities. Students will represent tenants and homeowners facing eviction proceedings in the 36th District Court of Detroit. Students will study relevant areas of federal and state housing law and learn how to interview clients, prepare pleadings, negotiate settlements and litigate cases.

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    Immigration Law Clinic

    Students will represent immigrants seeking a variety of relief and benefits, including family sponsorship, Violence Against Women Act petitions, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Students will also represent clients in trials before the U.S. Immigration Court and hearings before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

    More Information about the Immigration Law Clinic
    In a recent case, students represented a detained (imprisoned) asylum seeker through all the steps of his immigration court case, culminating in a grueling all day hearing that resulted in the Clinic client prevailing and winning asylum. The new asylee spent his first day of freedom in our Clinic speaking with students about his experiences. 

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    International Patent Law Clinic

    Under the supervision of patent attorneys registered to practice before the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), students will write patent applications for inventors. Students will interview an inventor, prepare drawings and a description for a patentability search, evaluate the patentability search results, prepare drawing layouts for a patent application for the inventor, and write all parts of the specifications including claims for the invention. Applications will be filed with the USPTO. 

    Information about the International Intellectual Property (IP) Law Clinic
    The International Patent Law Clinical Program is part of the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic which is a partnership between Detroit Mercy Law and Windsor Faculty of Law.  Each year the two schools have a Patent Drafting Competition and teams from Canada and the United States compete. 

    The International Intellectual Property (IP) Law Clinic is a truly unique clinical education initiative. Building upon many years of successful collaboration between University of Windsor Law and University of Detroit Mercy Law, the Clinic is one of only a few international legal clinics. Operated jointly by Detroit Mercy Law and Windsor Law, the clinic is the first international IP Clinic program wherein students have the opportunity to engage in IP practice across jurisdictions, servicing American. and Canadian clients and acquiring international IP protection.

    The International IP Clinic courses are open to all upper year Detroit Mercy Law and Windsor Law students. Students may register either at Detroit Mercy Law or Windsor Law and receive course credit at either institution.

    Students participating in the International IP Law Clinic will have the opportunity to practice IP law in an international context, including US and Canadian intellectual property law. Students will work with real clients and will have the opportunity to conduct inventors’ interviews, complete searches, report search results and draft and prosecute applications.

    Competition Information

    The annual National Patent Drafting Competition, organized by the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and held at the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional USTPO, takes place at the beginning of each year and offers student teams the opportunity to present their patent applications in front of a panel of judges comprised of patent examiners, practitioners and several high profile guest judges.  Stay tuned for our next competition. Registration information will be made available in early September. 

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    Juvenile Appellate Clinic

    Students will be involved by representing children in appeals to the Michigan Court of Appeals from trial court proceedings in the Wayne County Juvenile Court. The appeals will almost exclusively involve child protective proceedings (abuse and neglect) but there may also be some exposure to juvenile delinquency proceedings and appeals of those cases. The clinic will involve learning appellate procedures and drafting a brief to be submitted to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Students will also have the opportunity to argue the Appeal to a panel of expert attorneys and under recent changes made to MCR 8.120, they may potentially have the opportunity to argue the appeal to the Court of Appeals.

    More Information about the Juvenile Law Appellate Clinic
    One of the most significant cases for the students involved the terminating the parental rights of a mother who stabbed her 7-year-old daughter to death. The juvenile court was asked to terminate the mother's parental rights for her other living children, and granted the request. The case included testimony from five doctors, numerous social workers and civilian witnesses. The case was appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals and students wrote briefs and were ultimately successful in affirming the order to terminate parental rights in order to protect the surviving children.

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    Trademark and Entrepreneur Clinic

    Operating as a USPTO certified trademark clinic (application pending), under the supervision of licensed attorneys, including licensed trademark attorneys registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), students will have the opportunity to assist local entrepreneurs in filing trademark applications with the USPTO and will be able to correspond directly with that office as well as prepare and file responses. Students will also assist business entrepreneurs in navigating the legal issues involved in business startup. 

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    Veterans Law Clinic

    Students participating in the Veterans’ Clinic will have the opportunity to represent military veterans and their families in disability cases and related matters. Students primarily will practice before the Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain veterans benefits for service-connected disabilities. 

    More Information about the Veterans Law Clinic
    One case of particular significance involved a homeless veteran for whom the Clinic successfully recovered benefits which allowed the disabled veteran, who had been living in his car, to purchase a home. 

Mini-Clinics for First-Year Students

As part of our commitment to providing service learning experiences for students from day one, we offer mini-clinics for first-year students.  Our mini-clinics, rooted in the Jesuit and Mercy traditions of caring for those with the least resources and greatest need, help our students develop legal, leadership, and community service skills.  In mini-clinics, first-year students are trained and supervised by attorneys in the legal community and help clients with a variety of matters.

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    Crime Stoppers Clinic

    First-year students have had the opportunity to work with Crime Stoppers, a non-profit agency that assists the public in solving crimes through various tools and seeks to empower people to anonymously report crime. Students supported the Crime Stoppers team by reviewing cold case files and strategizing further steps in criminal investigations.

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    Driver's License Restoration Clinic

    Students assist veterans with finding outstanding warrants or tickets that are infringing on their ability to hold a license and help the veterans take the necessary steps to reinstate their license.

    “The clinic was a great opportunity to learn by helping real people with real problems. The clinic gave me hands-on experience that I would have never read about in books or learned by sitting in a classroom. Working in this clinic helped me remember why I wanted to go to law school in the first place, which is to help others.”

    Nour Alaouie

     

    Nour Alaouie ‘22

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    Greening of Detroit Clinic

    First-year students have also worked with Greening of Detroit, a non-profit that serves Detroit through planting trees and other beatification projects, that also offers a job training program that creates job opportunities, some of which require a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Students in the clinic provided information to trainees with civil issues or misdemeanors on how to resolve the matters so that they could pursue their CDL and improve their employment opportunities.

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    Pope Francis Center Legal Clinic

    Students work with attorneys from law firms including Kitch, Dickinson Wright, Wilson Elser, Bodman, and Butzel Long to provide legal assistance to guests of the Pope Francis Center. The Pope Francis Center is located adjacent to the law school and provides a variety of services to people experiencing homelessness in Detroit. In the legal clinic, students learn how to research court records to help attorneys provide the most comprehensive services possible to guests at the Center.

    “Helping people is really what practicing law is all about, and the mini-clinics helped me understand how important pro bono work is for the community.”

    Sydney Fontanilla

     

    Sydney Fontanilla ‘22

    “This experience helps future lawyers gain an appreciation and understanding of the barriers to access across populations, and could motivate students to consider public need and social policy in their various interests in the law.”

    Brandon Alford

     

    Brandon Alford ‘23

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    Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Hearing

    Students assist attorneys and non-attorney foreclosure experts from the United Community Housing Coalition and Michigan Legal Services. In January, the Wayne County Treasurer’s office has Show Cause Hearings for thousands of Wayne County residents who are facing tax foreclosure on their residential property. Students observe and support attorneys; students review documents to make sure they are complete and do other administrative tasks to allow attorneys to work with more clients.

    “This clinic developed my interest in real estate, property and business in the context of legal rights and community development. When I look back to this experience I realize how important it is to use my privilege to support those who are most vulnerable to systemic forms of racial, social, and economic injustice.”

    Sarah Elsayed

     

    Sarah Elsayed ‘22

Traveling Expungement Clinic

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    Traveling Expungement Clinic

    The Traveling Expungement Clinics provide individuals at no cost, legal services to determine if their criminal record was eligible for expungement and to assist them in navigating the complicated process.  These clinics offer expungement services in mid-northern Michigan and a total of 15 students from Detroit Mercy Law traveled to nine counties providing assistance to nearly 350 people to determine their eligibility for expungement. Students worked with volunteer attorneys, court officials, judges, sheriffs, and Detroit Mercy Law faculty and staff. 

    Detroit Mercy Law Clinical Program, Associate Dean of Experiential Learning, Nicholas Schroeck, Adjunct Professor Judge Michelle Rick and Clinic Director of Operations and Outreach, Rebecca Nowak, were recently selected by the State Bar of Michigan to receive the Kimberly M. Cahill award for the travelling expungement clinic that occurred in 2019. This award is presented to a recognized local or affinity bar association, program, or leader for excellence in promoting the ideal of professionalism or equal justice for all, or in responding to a compelling legal need within the community during the past year or on an ongoing basis. 

    “The Expungement Clinic was a legal innovation designed to restore dignity, pride, and, in some instances, life necessities to persons among us who have paid their debt to society and otherwise atoned for their past wrongdoings. Expungements are restorative. They have the power of opening doors that would remain closed - doors to employment, to student loans, to public benefits and other opportunities, and to a better life.”

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    Hon. Michelle Rick '91, Circuit Judge, Clinton & Gratiot County, Adjunct Professor

Drafting Competitions

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    Midwest Regional Patent Drafting Competition

    The International Patent Law Clinical Program is part of the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic which is a partnership between Detroit Mercy Law and Windsor Faculty of Law.  Each year the two schools have a Patent Drafting Competition and teams from Canada and the United States compete.

    Past Competitions: 

    6TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL PATENT DRAFTING COMPETITION

    On March 6-7, 2021, the 6th Annual International Patent Drafting Competition took place. The winner from the region is University of Minnesota Law School. In the past, there was 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, but now, the regional winners who will go to the national competition at the USPTO main office in Arlington, VA.  

    Detroit Mercy Law Team: Jeremiah Foley, Fadi Abuzir, and Austin Miller. Alumni Coaches: Shannon Smith and Deanna Kossaras

    5TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL PATENT DRAFTING COMPETITION

    On March 13-14, 2020, Deanne Kossaras '13, intellectual property counsel at Harman International, and Shannon Smith ’13, shareholder at Reising Ethington, coached the 2020 Detroit Mercy Law competition team: Chandler Dorris ’20, Jeremiah Foley ’21, Fadi Abuzir ’22, and Catherine Mitchell ’21. This year the competition took place virtually due to the global pandemic. Teams competed via WebEx while judges and USPTO staff were at the USPTO offices.

    Fifteen teams are competing in the 2020 competition. University of St. Thomas School of Law, University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University College of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, University of Akron School of Law, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, University of Windsor Faculty of Law, University of Dayton School of Law, St. Louis University School of Law, Windsor Law, IU Maurer School of Law, University of Cincinnati , University of Detroit Mercy, Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School 

    4TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL PATENT DRAFTING COMPETITION

    On February 23, 2019, the International Intellectual Property Clinic hosted its 4th International Patent Drafting Competition at the Detroit office of the USPTO. 

    Fifteen teams from the United States and Canada competed. The winning teams were 1st Place - Indiana Mauer School of Law; 2nd Place - University of Windsor Faculty of Law; 3rd Place University of Michigan Law School.

    3RD ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL PATENT DRAFTING COMPETITION

    On February 24, 2018, the International Intellectual Property Clinic hosted its 3rd Annual International Patent Drafting Competition at the Detroit office of the USPTO. 

    List of 2018 competing teams: Saint Louis University Law School, Indiana University School of Law, Michigan State University College of Law, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, (2nd Place) University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Thomas R. Kline School of Law - Drexel University, Mitchell Hamline School of Law,  University of Michigan Law School, (1st Place) Georgia State University College of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, The John Marshall Law School, Duquesne University School of Law, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, and (3rd Place) Osgood Law School - York University.

    2ND ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL PATENT DRAFTING COMPETITION

    In 2017, nine teams competed from Canada and the United States in the competition held at the Detroit USPTO.

    List of 2017 competing teams:  University of Windsor Faculty of Law/Detroit Mercy Law, Ohio State University, (1st Place) St. Louis University, (3rd Place) Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, Indiana University, Michigan State University College of Law, (2nd Place) Osgood University, Boston University School of Law and the University of Michigan Law School.