My name is Linus Chan and I teach an immigration clinic at the University of Minnesota. Being a student at a law school clinic can often be a transformative experience. Over my career as a clinical teacher, I have had to often think back and wonder what it is that makes clinics special. What is it about clinics that makes the experience valuable and often transformative? There are many possible answers – from meeting and learning client stories, taking ownership over a real case, to exercising advocacy skills in a meaningful way. But an answer that doesn’t get talked about more – is the close, personal relationships we get to have with our clinic supervisors. In many ways our clinic supervisors are the first true “lawyers” we get to observe and often the lawyers that we end up trying to model ourselves after.
I became a clinical student in the Fall of 2000, and was lucky enough to be one of the first students that Jane Raley and Karen Daniel supervised. I didn’t know much about either one of them, but quickly learned what formidable lawyers they were. What a great duo they made! My time as a clinical student was transformative. Meeting clients, including conducting interviews, or reading over intake letters were all part of a meaningful experience. But my time in the clinic was transformative because of how much I got to know the wonderful advocates for the Center. Larry Marshall was this brilliant and passionate advocate who seemed to be able to persuade anyone of anything. Karen Daniel was intimidating in her intellect and her ability to understand difficult and complex issues. Rob Warden seemed like an uncle of the whole project, able to share insights that no one else had and history and stories that no one else would tell. I learned so much about being a lawyer just from being able to observe and interact with these wonderful advocates. But – when it came to Jane Raley, well it was my time with her that changed me the most.
Working with people that the law has failed can breed cynicism and pessimism. There is so much to be righteously angry about and so often as advocates we tend to be the unfortunate witnesses of pain, tragedy and injustice. And yet when I think back to one of my first templates of a passionate attorney – I think of Jane Raley and her seemingly endless well of energy. This field of work attracts passionate, compassionate and energetic people and Jane was no different. But Jane was different in a way that perhaps I didn’t appreciate as a student more, but do appreciate now. Jane was enthusiastic – about her work, about her clients and about her students. This enthusiasm was such a positive force. It was infectious not just to her students, but to her clients. Her enthusiasm has helped the wrongfully imprisoned to stay hopeful, helped struggling law students and has helped me to remember what a privilege it is do work in service of people. Of course Jane is more than a template or model advocate, and I do miss her. I miss the excitement in her voice, her relentless encouragement and how when she would get excited, her whole body would shake.
Linus Chan is currently a Visiting Associate Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he teaches a Detainee Rights Clinic in the Center for New Americans. He is a 2002 graduate of Northwestern University School of Law, and a Center on Wrongful Convictions clinic student for two years. This guest post was contributed on the occasion of the Wrongful Convictions Symposium in Honor of Jane Raley on November 12, 2015, which Professor Chan was unable to attend.