The monthly intake meeting at the South Florida AIDS Network had a decidedly different flavor last week when students from Miami Law’s Health Rights Clinic visited with Scottish counterparts from the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic in Glasgow, Scotland. Students from both clinics met with clients who are in search of assistance with legal issues including applying for legal immigration status and securing government housing or medical benefits.
For the third year, four students from the Scottish law school clinic visited Miami to learn and discuss shared experiences. The Miami students travel to Glasgow each fall.
“Even though our law school and clinic differ markedly from Miami’s, there is so much we have to gain from the experience,” said fourth-year undergraduate Ben Brown. “For instance, our intakes are more rigorous because we are preparing to present the case in hearings before a tribunal. Miami intakes are more of the first step to advocacy. It was such an interesting process to observe.”
In Scotland, students begin their law school curriculum immediately following high school studies. After completing a four-year undergraduate law degree, they do a post-graduate one-year of practical studies, followed by a two-year residency before becoming a practicing solicitor.
Brown, who grew up on a farm that raised cattle and sheep in Cardross, Scotland, has participated in the clinic since his first year. Upon completion of his studies, he will likely devote his career to land reform and farming law.
Luiz Miranda was one of four Miami Law clinic students to travel to Glasgow last October as part of the Miami Law visiting contingent.
"The Strathclyde Clinic works with a wider variety of clients -- more similar to the combined efforts of Miami Law's ten clinics," Miranda said. "They take on an incredible number of cases across a broad swath of practices, like government benefits and housing, to consumer complaints. Yet in Miami, students also work with intricate appeals cases that can last years, at times shaping future law.”
Ilexis Mazer, Daniel Piscottano, and Amanda Tolbert, all Miami Law Class of 2017, joined Miranda in Scotland, in addition to Clinic Director JoNel Newman and Associate Director Melissa Swain, J.D. `06.
"Teaming up with Strathclyde has helped us look at our practice through another's eyes," said Newman. "They've become our sister school across the pond," Swain added. "The ethos of access to social justice."
The Miami clinic, a medical-legal partnership with the Miller School of Medicine, trains students to represent low-income, underserved, health-impaired clients. The Strathclyde clinic, with around 250 students, provides free legal assistance to the people of Glasgow who are unable to obtain legal assistance elsewhere.
Coming from a national free public healthcare system, Kate Laverty, one of the Strathclyde clinic’s supervising solicitors, said her students are always surprised by the high number of health rights cases handled by the Miami Law students. This year, in addition to Brown, were Jennifer Rowlinson, Beth Kelly, and Miranda Hughes.
Laverty said that the bulk of the Scottish students’ cases are employment-related. “The intakes are more intense,” said Laverty. “It often takes hours to gather all the information and documentation just to open a case.”
Brown got his first case two weeks after he started at the clinic as an 18-year-old.
"I did notice that the Scottish students can do a lot more work earlier in their career," Miranda said, “But, both clinics are bound by providing access to justice.”