CSL Small Practice Center Lawyers “Make the Cut”

April 8, 2015

Recently, some of our neighbors “made the cut” in the ABA’s recent video In Their Own Words: A Video Featuring Incubator Lawyers. CSL-grads-turned-solo-practitioners at the Small Practice Center were featured in the video, which provides insight into the uniqueness and experience of an incubator. The CSL incubator, which shares a space with us at 1300 South Boulevard, is the only incubator in the state, and one of only 35 in the country. Three CSL practitioners were spotlighted, congrats to Richard, Sonny, and Issa!

The video can also be viewed by clicking here.

Clinic Member Interning at NC Court of Appeals This Summer

March 20, 2015
Photo courtesy of NC Court of Appeals.

Photo courtesy of NC Court of Appeals.

Congrats to one of our very own, Adam Melrose, who just got a summer internship at the North Carolina Court of Appeals! Beginning in June, Adam will be exclusively working on researching and writing criminal appellate memos. Congrats, Adam!

Panel March 12th on the Militarization of the Police

March 3, 2015


CSL’s ACLU chapter is hosting an event next Thursday, March 12th, on the militarization of the police.  A captain from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the legal director of the North Carolina ACLU chapter will be debating the merits of the common practice of using military grade equipment to carry out simple–yet dangerous–police duties.  There will also be a substantial amount of time devoted to audience questions for either side. For more information, contact Cynthia Vogler at voglerc@students.charlottelaw.edu.

Charlotte Law Gives Students $10,000? Sign Me Up!

April 19, 2014

By: Brittany Moore

Many students are aware Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law (“CSL”) are owned by the same parent company—InfiLaw. However, what most students don’t know is that Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law are pioneers of a new program: The Assured Outcomes Partnership (“Program”). Currently, Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law are the only two law schools in the nation with a program like this.

What is the Assured Outcomes Partnership? It is a Program where a student may receive $10,000 if they meet the requirements of the Program and fail the bar exam twice. The Program at CSL applies to students who take either the North or South Carolina Bar Exam.

I will admit, when I first heard of this Program, I was a little mad; actually, very mad. It made me mad because I equated this Program to incentivizing people who fail the bar exam twice, while those who pass the Bar get nothing more than a pat on the back. I also assumed my tuition was going towards paying students who do not pass the Bar. Because I had such an intense initial reaction, I wanted to find out more about the Program, so my opinions would be more informed. To learn more, on February 10, 2014, I met with Assistant Dean Odessa Alm of Student Success, head of the Program.

Prior to joining CSL in 2013, Dean Alm served as the Director of Academic Success at Florida Coastal (her alma mater) for nine years. Dean Alm designed a comprehensive academic success and bar prep program at Florida Coastal during that time. Dean Alm said the purpose of the Program is to help students who utilize all of the resources available to continue to work towards a successful path to passing the bar. Dean Alm stated, “I don’t want anyone to get $10,000.00.” At first this statement shocked me because initially I thought the Program would result in numerous students receiving the money while bar passage rates at CSL declined., However, Dean Alm stated she believed in the effectiveness of the bar passage programs offered by CSL and, because of that belief, the students who follow the Program will have more resources available to help them pass the bar.

In order to qualify for the program, the student must obtain an acknowledgement form from Dean Alm and submit it to her. The student must also meet the following requirements:

  1. Attend 75% of the voluntary Charlotte Law Academic Success (CPAS) workshops offered during the student’s first and second year at CSL;
  2. If placed on academic probation or academic alert status, the student complied with all probationary or alert status counseling requirements;
  3. Score greater than 50% on the Multistate Bar Examination Preview (MBEP) at the end of your first year of law school or score greater than 55% on a subsequent attempt at the MBEP;
  4. If you earn a first year law school G.P.A. of less than 2.31, you must successfully pass course equivalents of Remedies, Real Estate Finance and Family Law;
  5. Complete the 3-day Kaplan Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) course during the bar season immediately prior to your first and second Bar exam attempts;
  6. Attendance rate of 100% at Operation PASS Workshops during the bar seasons immediately before the first and second Bar exam attempts;
  7. Complete 100% of the Operation PASS Essays during the bar season before your first and second attempts, and timely submit the essays for feedback;
  8. Successfully complete the Carolinas Distinctions or MBE Strategies course with a grade of C or better;
  9. Been enrolled in a commercial bar review course/BEAR (CSL Bar Exam Advanced Review) before the first and second attempts at a bar exam; and
  10. Provide CSL with written permission to access the first and second attempted bar exam scores and essays.

That is quite a list. The Program requires student participation beginning in their first year. So, sorry upper-classmen, we can’t participate. However, a student’s failure to comply with all requirements disqualifies them from the Program. Now, I can see why Dean Alm doesn’t think a student will reach the $10,000; because the Program is set up to require interested students to complete requirements the Bar Passage Program at Charlotte Law thinks a student should be doing anyway in order to pass the bar. If the student complies with all of the requirements, passing the bar exam within two attempts is obtainable.

After my interview with Dean Alm, my feelings about the Program did change a little. I no longer feel like the program is a “waste of tuition” or a program that would be subject to abuse by students. However, I am still concerned that some students may seek and find loopholes that will circumvent the purpose of the Program in assisting students pass either the NC or SC Bar Exam. After the interview, my opinion changed; now I agree with Dean Alm. If a student complies with all of the requirements, and puts the time and effort into the Program then it is less likely a student will receive the $10,000. My new outlook is that the Program will actually increase CSL’s bar passage rates, in which case both the school and the students win.

Spark To Ignite a Bigger War? The Syrian Conflict and the Role of the US

October 21, 2013

By: Brittany Moore

On September 24, 2013, Tony Ketron, Professor at CSL, spoke on the United States’ involvement in the current civil war in Syria. Ketron’s presentation addressed the legal, political, and international implications of U.S. military involvement.

The current civil war in Syria began over two years ago. The United Nations reports over 115,000 casualties and millions of refugees being displaced so far.[1] The spark of the current state of affairs in Syria can most prominently be traced back to 2011, with the Arab Spring that took over the region. The Arab Spring is the violent and non-violent protests and revolutions consuming the Middle East region to thwart the current governmental structures that are oppressing the people in favor of a more democratic governmental structure. Soon, Syria became engulfed with political and civil unrest as protesters sought to overthrow the current Baathist regime. Then on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government used chemical agents on the citizens of Syria in and around the capital of Damascus.

So what does this have to do with the U.S.? The role of the U.S. relates to Syria’s non-compliance with two treaties. The first treaty is the 1925 Treaty, which simply bans the use of poisonous gases in warfare. At the time the treaty was signed, Syria was still under the control of France, and did not sign the treaty. This means that Syria would be able to use poisonous gases, such as sarin, sulfur, and mustard gases in domestic and international warfare. However, through customary international law, a state which accepts without opposition the customary and general practices regarding international affairs and humanitarian laws is seen as accepting and being subject to the 1925 Treaty, which Syria has done until recently.

The second treaty is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, colloquially referred to as the Chemical Weapons Convention (“CWC”). The CWC aims to eliminate weapons of mass destruction (“WMD”) by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer, or use of chemical weapons.[2] Under the CWC, the Chemical Weapons Commission is to report UN countries that do not comply with the CWC by possessing or transferring chemical weapons in some manner.

The U.S. has two main concerns regarding the use of WMD’s in Syria. The first concern is that this type of technology will be used by terrorists suspected by the U.S. to reside in Syria. Second, the current conflict in Syria poses a real threat of spilling over the borders which would harm U.S. Allies such as Israel and the strategic interests of the U.S. and sparking a much bigger war. “We need to be very, very careful on how we proceed and we need to have a clearly defined objective,” said Ketron. Conflicts within this region have typically involved various overriding cultural issues, most notably religious views, strategic interests, and a history of conflict dating back thousands of years.

Initially, President Obama approached Congress seeking approval for military force, if necessary, to disarm Syria of their chemical weapons. However, this drew a lot of criticism because President Obama is authorized under the War Powers Act to independently authorize the use of military force for a period of 90 days in order to secure U.S. strategic interests and arguably Article II of the United States. Criticism has come not only come from Congress and the American people (approximately 72% of Americans are against any U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict[3]), but also from other countries. Russia and Great Britain have stated they will not participate or endorse military force being used to address the Syrian Conflict. “The U.S. has set a precedent of acting alone to further our international views; Iraq conflict, Desert Storm, and World War I,’ said Ketron. A student asked “if President Obama were to exercise his independent power to employ military force in Syria would it potentially open up the door for World War III?” Ketron responded, “that probably won’t happen, but we can’t be sure. Using force now would be jumping the gun.”

On September 20, 2013, Syria and Russia entered into a treaty that has derailed the possibility of using U.S. military force in Syria. Ketron explained that this treaty essentially provides that Syria will disclose and release any and all chemical weapons in its possession for destruction or disposal. Additionally, the treaty provides for the inspection 45 sites suspected of producing or storing chemical weapons in Syria. Russian and U.S. officials, with oversight by the UN, are to conduct the inspections beginning in November with destruction of those weapons to be complete by 2014. Ketron explained that “Right now active U.S. involvement most likely will be limited to assisting with the site inspections and the destruction or disposal of chemical weapons.”

Why do we care about the Syrian conflict? We care for two main reasons. First, as a practical matter, the U.S. is a major world leader that prides itself on championing democracy, justice, and furthering humanitarian principles. In connection with the U.S.’s position as a world leader, our economy and the value of the American Dollar influence the affairs and actions of foreign third-world countries. Second, the U.S. has strategic interests in protecting Middle Eastern allies, like Israel, from the proliferation of chemical weapons to terrorist organizations, the spillover effects of chemical agents being used across borders, and the millions of refugees who are currently seeking shelter and safety from the turmoil. “I think we are a stabilizing force for Democracy, even when we aren’t welcome,” said Ketron.

World conflicts arise almost daily, however, it is the manner in which they are handled and resolved which demonstrates the strength of the country, and the world. More often than not the resolution of an international third-world conflict needs the assistance of a world leader to prevent further destruction and conflict. The U.S.’s involvement in Syria, at this point, is to do just that – to prevent further conflict and destruction.

An Investigative Response to “After 8 Years, Charlotte School Of Law Has Become NC’s Largest. So What’s [the] Value Of [a] Degree?”

September 22, 2013

By: Hailey Hawkins

I am not a reporter, and I may not be what many would consider a “traditional” law student.  I entered Teach for America immediately after college and taught high school math in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for three years.  During my second year of teaching I met and fell in love with the man who is now my husband, a CSL graduate, and an assistant public defender in Gaston County.  When I decided to leave the classroom to change careers and attend law school, my primary goals were to stay close to Charlotte and attend a school that made the most economic sense for me.  Now that I am in law school, involved in the Civil Rights Clinic, Moot Court Honor Board, and Law Review, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing faculty members, students, and practitioners in Charlotte.

On Thursday, September 12, 2013, WFAE Reporter Julie Rose released her investigative journalism piece on Charlotte School of Law. Like every strong investigative journalist, she approached her research by looking for a particular story, and focused on the evidence that supported her theories.  Unfortunately, in a venture to paint Charlotte School of Law (“CSL”) as the biggest school in North Carolina with the lowest quality, there were several facts that were ignored or misrepresented.

Charlotte School of Law is not the “traditional” law school.  While every other law school in North Carolina has an average age of 24 for the entire enrollment, the average age of a first year student at Charlotte School of Law in 2012 was 27.  Many students at CSL are not the traditional students coming straight from undergraduate school who knew their whole lives that they wanted to be lawyers.  Rather, the nontraditional student may want to start his or her own business based on past experiences and areas of expertise, already own a business and want the legal education to better manage that company, or see the opportunities for dual-degree programs or part-time curricula that fit in with their familial or professional lives.  There are also traditional students, those coming straight from an undergraduate institution, who wanted to live in Charlotte or already lived in Charlotte.  Other students have families and spouses that work and live in Charlotte, and for these individuals, commuting nearly three hours every day, or even once a week, is not an economic option.

Julie Rose quoted Elie Mystal, editor of the blog Above the Law: “If you’re that dead set on going to law school and staying in North Carolina, you should go to the absolute cheapest law school you can get into, get your degree, pass the bar and then hustle for a job.  Unless you go to Duke, you’re gonna have to hustle for a job and so, you might as well hustle for a job with as little debt as possible hanging over your head.”  This statement may be true, and if this is the case then it actually supports most students going to Charlotte School of Law. There are several students in Charlotte School of Law with high LSAT scores and GPAs from their undergraduate school who have made the financial decision to attend CSL because they have earned merit scholarships.  There are students here because this is the only opportunity they had based on other factors, such as having a family in Charlotte, attending undergraduate school years ago, or not doing as well on the LSAT.

The reality is that Charlotte School of Law is giving people an opportunity to achieve a higher level of education that may or may not have otherwise been available.  Classes of students of different of ages and backgrounds lends to conversation and case analysis far beyond what is written in the book.  Most of the faculty members have practiced in their respective fields and can bring real-life situations into every class.  The diversity of the student body, combined with the clinical, practice-ready approach built into the curriculum, has allowed individuals to grow beyond just the black letter law to develop practical skills that can be applied in their professions.

Ms. Rose spoke with Isaac Sturgill, a recent alumnus of Charlotte School of Law who works for Legal Aid of North Carolina in Charlotte, and instead of changing her thesis that CSL provides a low quality education, she explicitly states that “he is not the norm.”  However, this statement leaves the question, “what is the norm?”  The numerous clinical opportunities available to students provide hours of pro bono resources in the city, and since 2006 over 140,000 hours of legal services have been provided to Charlotte. Of these hours, 67,155.46 hours are pro bono, 59,432.36 hours through externships, and 14,465.03 are hours of community service.  Julie Rose sat in on one of the meetings for the Civil Rights Clinic and, despite witnessing a conversation outlining a research proposal that could positively impact the administration of justice for parties to criminal district court proceedings, the only reference to that meeting was the picture on the website, supplementing the article.  In spite of all the evidence suggesting that this clinical approach and focus on legal services actually was “the norm,” Rose focused on the cost and size of the school.

Julie Rose’s article and the statements contained therein do not paint an accurate picture.  Although the CSL bar passage rate for the North Carolina July 2013 bar was 58%, this is not the average that Charlotte School of Law has produced since its inception.  In February 2010, July 2010, February 2011, and February 2013 Charlotte School of Law students were above the average passage rate in the state, and over the past four years the bar passage rate has averaged approximately 70%.  In terms of employment, 88.9% of the 2012 graduates were considered employed per the NALP, a national organization of legal recruiting and placement professionals that has collected legal employment data for nearly 40 years.  Of this nearly 90% of graduates employed, 89.4% are employed in positions that require bar passage or a law degree, and 5.8% are employed in other professional positions.

As Rose identifies, “many of [the professors] graduated from top law schools—[and] rave about the freedom and support they get from the school.”  Charlotte School of Law not only hosts professors from top law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Wake Forest, and UNC, but also individuals who excelled or still excel in their practice areas.  The focus on practice ready, clinical, non-traditional education allows professors to offer greater advice and experiential learning opportunities so students can hit the ground running as soon as they enter a firm or practice, or start their own firm.  The faculty, which defines the quality of education available at a school, is focused on ensuring that students are leaving CSL with the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in the legal profession.

Our school is young, and our alumni base is not as established as Duke, Wake Forest, or UNC, but as the alumni base grows so will the job market in Charlotte.  John Lassiter, President of Carolina Legal Staffing, stated, “The challenge is the legal profession always has biases to highly-ranked schools that have strong alumni bases.”  The alumni that graduate from CSL are neither less qualified nor less intelligent to compete for the jobs, but the reality of these biases does play a role in the job market.  Students from CSL will need to work twice as hard, if not more, to overcome the presumptions that Rose’s article exacerbates.  Charlotte School of Law is young in the legal community, and being new naturally causes uncertainties in an established community.  However, the timing and focus of Rose’s article adds greater stress to those students who just graduated, passed the bar, and are now entering the grueling job market because it builds on a negative presumption that these new lawyers will need to overcome.

Students and faculty members of Charlotte School of Law have been fighting the uphill battle to build a positive reputation and earn a position of respect in the North Carolina legal community.  Rose’s article demonstrates that the battle is nowhere close to over, and calls for action on behalf of all students, faculty, and alumni of Charlotte School of Law.  It is our task to prove these stereotypes wrong and demonstrate that our school and students are intelligent, talented, and providing a service in the Charlotte community.  Through perseverance, hard work, and time, we can show that graduates striving for public justice and excelling in their respective fields ARE the norm.

Unmasking the Rights of Children and their Parents in Education

September 15, 2013

By: Joshua Lipack

407783_1676833686017_2051181580_n (1)Last week, four Clinic students attended an in-depth training seminar offered by the Council for Children’s Rights.  The program was broken down into four individual sessions – (1) Special Education, (2) Know Your Rights: Student Rights in Public Schools, (3) Advocacy Tips: How to Stay Organized and Be Effective, and (4) Panel Discussion: Navigating School Discipline – which focused on issues commonly faced by parents with exceptional children.  Most of those in attendance were parents who had already gone through many of these issues and developed war stories of their own.  The subjects’s many complexities, which could easily span a semester’s length of instruction in juvenile law, were scaled down into an impressively short crash-course clocking in at less than four hours.

Parents acting as advocates on behalf of their children, whether in obtaining an appropriate Individualized Education Program (IEP) or contesting an inappropriate behavioral sanction, can easily find themselves lost within any number of barriers.  While the goal on either side is to reach the best interests of the child, increasing pressure on school districts can unfortunately allow some children to fall through the cracks.  Many parents actively working on behalf of their children are often facing the hopelessly daunting task of blindly navigating through the education system. CFCR Logo

One presenter offering simple yet invaluable advice explained the critical importance of being organized.  The process for obtaining an IEP for an exceptional child requires many meetings.  With the help of a well-organized three-ring binder, parents are able to alleviate much of their stress by being able to respond quickly to questions raised during meetings regarding former mental health evaluations or disciplinary records.

Presenters impressively transitioned between complex issues while making them easy to understand.  In addition to organizational tips, parents were given a quick run-down of the in what essential rights they have during the IEP process.  These rights were easily condensed into one slide:

Right to examine all records relevant to the child’s education;

Right to attend and participate in all IEP meetings;

Right to invite others to IEP meeting;

Right to request an independent evaluation;

Right to receive prior notice;

Right to pursue conflict resolution procedures.

Knowing they are in possession of these few simple rights gives parents not only the knowledge they need to advocate for their children but the necessary confidence as well.  Parents in the audience left feeling empowered by key language they would need to walk into a meeting informed.  Parents now know to say that they are looking for their child to receive an “educational benefit,” a phrase taken directly from the common law interpretation of the Free Appropriate Public Education Act (FAPE), rather than asking to maximize their child’s potential, which may in itself be enough to demonstrate they know what they are talking about.  In many situations, in a child’s education, a few strategically placed buzz words are all you need to show the one across the desk from you that you know what your child has a right to and that you are not backing down until your child has everything they need.

The Council for Children’s Rights periodically offers this and other free training programs and can be contacted at (704) 372-7961.

Additional Resources

Disability Rights of North Carolina               1-800-821-6922

Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center    1-800-962-6817

Wrights Law                                                1-800-962-6817

ParentVOICE                                               704-365-3454

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