Poverty Law In Practice is a course designed to expose law students and lawyers to the basic substantive laws and procedures associated with areas where attorneys are needed, and expertise is required. Areas to be covered initially will include: Benefits law (social security benefits--SSDI/SSI, Medicaid, LIHEAP, etc.), Landlord-Tenant/ Public Housing, and Consumer Debt Collection Practices and Used Car Sales Fraud.
Three substantive areas will be covered in a given semester, with changes in the topics covered in the course based on needs for training in the community and availability of poverty law experts to serve as trainers.
One goal of the class is to give students an introduction to the need to provide pro-bono and low-bono services. A second goal is to give practitioners competence in these areas of the law so that they can take on as clients, and adequately represent, under-served people. Attorneys who take the class will be asked to take on a pro-bono case in the area covered, and attorneys will be able to take segments for free CLE credit. Students will be required to attend all sessions, observe an attorney who practices in this area, and provide documentation of that observation, in order to earn credit for the course.
John Feldman will coordinate the class and Sandi Gilley, of Law Access New Mexico, will be the lead instructor. Local attorneys with expertise in the relevant areas of law will also assist in instruction.
The class will address the need to provide students with a chance to learn about pro-bono work, as required by the American Bar Association, and provide a core of additional attorneys to serve the needs of people as referred by legal services providers and the courts. The class will be set up for distance learning, allowing attorneys throughout the state to take this training.
As an example of what would be covered in a four hour block on Landlord-Tenant/Public Housing law, students will study the New Mexico Uniform Owner-Resident Relations Act and the rules from the Magistrate and Metro courts flowing from the Act. Students and attorneys would be given a benchbook for landlord-tenant practice, which students can use when they take clinic or graduate and take clients, and practitioners can use to bridge the gap that keeps them from taking on clients with these types of legal problems.