Before law school, Rachel Logan, L'13, knew she wanted to pursue a track in education law. She completed a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Virginia before she started the program at University of Richmond School of Law. Logan explained, "[Education law] is a little bit more of a niche practice area, so it's harder to find classes and clinics. I feel lucky that we have the clinical program at UR."

Logan said the School's clinical program factored into her decision to attend UR. "It was nice to see that there was not only extended experience, but also something that was very realistic—having real clients and working with attorneys in the field." The School of Law currently offers four in-house clinics, including the Children's Defense Clinic, the Education Rights Clinic, the Jeanette Lipman Family Law Clinic, and the Institute for Actual Innocence.

During the fall semester, Logan and five other 3L students participated in the School's Education Rights Clinic. Under the supervision of Professor of Law and Director Adrienne Volenik, students in the Education Rights Clinic (formerly known as the Disability Law Clinic) represent children and parents seeking special education and community-based services. Students also have the opportunity to represent youth with mental disabilities, or who are incarcerated or institutionalized, in local juvenile courts.

Clinic students have also been appointed guardians ad litem for children with mental health needs in the justice system. As the clinic offers a hands-on experience, 2L and 3L law students are actively engaged in interviewing, counseling, negotiation, fact investigation, community and school meetings, and administrative and court hearings.

Logan described the two main components of the clinic. The classroom portion of the clinic involved readings, assignments, and activities assigned by Professor Volenik. Logan said the special activities included visiting a local Autism clinic and attending a Special Education Advisory Committee meeting in Chesterfield County. She said the classroom experience provided an introduction to some of the issues they would be handling in the clinic. "It gave us a big picture look at what the teachers and parents are dealing with, and it gives you insight into what your clients deal with."

The second component involved working directly with clients. Students worked in teams and were assigned several cases at the beginning of the semester. Logan explained that some cases are continued from a previous semester, requiring students to review the case history. Other cases are new to the clinic. Logan said those cases involved "everything from interviewing new clients, figuring out what their needs are, going to school meetings, meeting with the attorney for the school system, the teachers, and the principals, and then working with the client to see if the plan worked out with the school is implemented correctly."

Logan was familiar with the special education process before participating in the Education Rights Clinic. During her student teaching year, Logan gained first-hand experience on the teacher's side of the table working with students who were assigned Individualized Education Plans (IEP).

Logan said she and her partner were lucky because they received a new client at the beginning of the semester, which meant they were able to see the client through the entire process. She also said she enjoyed working on cases with a student partner. Having the ability to discuss case details with her partner, plan meetings together, and double-check each other's work were all beneficial activities. Each student team also had the opportunity to meet with Professor Volenik, who acted as their supervising attorney, each week to review cases and discuss new events.

Clinic students have the opportunity to handle due process administrative hearings, and third year students have been involved in litigation in both state and federal courts. Logan explained, "The nice thing about the Education Rights Clinic is that there's actually no requirement that you be an attorney to represent the parent in a due process hearing." 2Ls that haven't yet acquired the third year practice certificate can still participate in the due process hearings, which, Logan noted, are essentially trials. "You're going in front of an administrative law judge and presenting evidence and examining witnesses, so it's the exact same process." Logan's team was able to resolve their cases before they reached the hearing stage.

Logan said the best part of the clinic experience was working with clients. She explained, "They're so grateful to have someone who not only is there to help them, but also listens to them. That's really interesting because you realize that half your job is the counselor aspect of an attorney." Logan added, "At the end of the semester, my partner and I got a bunch of hugs from our clients. They were really grateful to have our help."

Logan said the clinical programs were the highlight of her law school experience. She encourages 2Ls to get involved with the Education Rights Clinic. She explained, "It's a unique opportunity and a good way to network during your second year." During her last semester at the law school, Logan will be participating in the School's Children's Defense Clinic.

Logan said the experience also gave her more confidence and momentum going into her career. "This was really a nice reinforcer." The experience made her realize, "I really do love this, and I'm able to do it." After graduating this spring, Logan will be working in an education law practice at a firm in Harrisonburg, Virginia.