An article by Philadelphia partner Larry Fox was published in the Journal of Legal Education, a quarterly publication of the Association of American Law Schools, currently edited at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.
Larry, a partner of the firm since 1976 and former managing partner, is the George W. and Sadella D. Crawford Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and the Supervisor of the Yale Ethics Bureau. In his article, titled, “Ethics Bureau at Yale: Combining Pro Bono Professional Responsibility Advice with Ethics Education,” Larry discussed the establishment and work of the clinic.
The idea for the clinic was borne out of necessity when Larry was asked, with short notice, to prepare an amicus brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case called Holland v. Florida. The timely filing of the influential brief, which would not have been possible without the contribution of two student volunteers, resulted in a citation from the court.
Inspired and having long “recognized the crying need for pro bono professional responsibility counseling,” Larry approached Yale Law School and received the dean’s prompt approval for the Ethics Bureau to begin the following semester.
After navigating the various trials and tribulations of establishing and recruiting for an untested venture, the Ethics Bureau got to work on a variety of matters, ranging from the propriety of a sexual relationship between judge and defender to an ineffective assistance of counsel case that involved a critical conflict of interest.
Larry described what that the students learned from the experience and what he learned from teaching the clinic for the first time. He said the clinic’s first semester “was the best of times and the worst of times.” While several of the matters ended with no relief for the underlying claims, “two matters brought truly gratifying relief,” most notably, the amicus brief that the Ethics Bureau filed in the capital case of Maples v. Thomas.
Larry explained that on January 18, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in this case, voting seven to two that Cory Maples was entitled to return to the point in the procedural chaos of capital litigation where Sullivan & Cromwell had abandoned him, with an opportunity to have habeas review in federal court.
“Amicus curiae practice does not get any better than this,” said Larry “and it will be hard to imagine these students having a more exciting or memorable litigation opportunity than this one, at least in the first few years of their practice.”
As for the future, the clinic has now operated for five full semesters and is on its way to becoming institutionalized.
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