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Elyse Rivas Criminal and Juvenile Justice Law Clinic

The USF Criminal Juvenile and Justice Law Clinic was an invaluable experience. By getting the hands on experience offered through the clinic, I realized there is a vast difference between learning law and doing law. The clinic allowed our group of certified law students to do law. There’s an old expression of “sink or swim.” In the context of the clinic experience, this expression meant that Professor Meadows and Professor Leary weren’t afraid to throw new and foreign assignments at us, and in turn we had to learn how to immediately get comfortable with new legal concepts. We were tasked with either sinking or swimming in our duties, and I’m proud to say that it seems our group was able to swim with the unexpected tides and succeed.

The clinic afforded me the chance to work on various types of misdemeanors. I had the chance to get acquainted with the various stages and directions a case can go once you get a case from infancy. Most importantly for me, I learned that a huge component of determining the direction my cases went was settled in my relationship with my clients. From watching Professor Meadows’ and Professor Leary’s interactions with clients, I learned that the more you engage with a client, the more comfortable and trusting he/she will be with you. I saw that when clients trust you as their attorney, they are more willing to cooperate with the business that needs to be done in order to serve the best interests of their case.

There is a great sense of camaraderie and a willingness to help new, young lawyers at the Hall of Justice that makes the transition from law school to attorney a less intimidating prospect.

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