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University of Miami: Evolving ambitious students into experienced lawyers

For a legal education to be dynamic, it has to be experiential — nowhere is this more true than at the University of Miami School of Law (Miami Law), where student experiences in the LL.M. programs are centred around cultivating real-world lawyering skills. Students can gain hands-on experience through participation in clinics, practicums, and externships.

The School’s clinical programme has been empowering students and uplifting communities simultaneously since 1995. “It is deeply committed to social justice and provides students the opportunity to cover a wide variety of legal practice areas,” explains Sandra Friedrich, Assistant Dean of International Graduate Law Programmes and director of the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M.

“Under close faculty supervision, students serve as the lead lawyer responsible for all aspects of the case, transaction or policy project, including developing strategy, interviewing clients and witnesses, negotiating with opposing counsel, drafting pleadings, contracts or policy reports, and conducting trials or arbitrations.”

Indra Cantillo Mejuto and her client post-victory. Source: University of Miami

In the process, they lift some of the burdens of the city’s most under-resourced communities and individuals without access to counsel. Last September, Indra Cantillo Mejuto from Cuba helped an immunocompromised, neurocognitively impaired Haitian win his I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with Relief for Surviving Relatives case. The victory meant he would, after living in the U.S. for 16 years, be able to pursue legal permanent resident status.

Mejuto, a J.D./LL.M. in U.S. and Transnational Law student, landed the opportunity through the Health Rights Clinic. In 2022 alone, the clinic won eight Social Security/public benefits cases on behalf of disabled clients and helped three cancer survivors and one immunocompromised domestic violence survivor become US citizens.

Representing the Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic, Ana Paula Carrijo Barroso from Brazil represented a client in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case and successfully argued a Motion to Reinstate. The clinic offers pro bono legal services to low-income individuals. Under the supervision of clinic mentor and local attorney Jeffrey Bast, Carrijo Barroso, who started in Miami Law’s International Arbitration LL.M. and moved into the J.D. program, had full immersion in the common law system.

“I learned how to develop my arguments, considering not only the applicable statutes but the caselaw,” enthuses the student. “I also learned to write and present myself orally following the American standard.”

The Bankruptcy Clinic afforded Brazil-trained lawyer Ana Paula Carrijo Barroso, center with clinic faculty, invaluable know-how and court room experience in the U.S. Source: University of Miami School of Law

Clinics are not the only way Miami Law students apply theory to real-world legal problems. Externships fuel success stories, too, like graduate Nick Flowers’s.

Born and raised in South Africa, Flowers chose the LL.M. in Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law as a pathway to his dream career. The degree unlocked an externship with the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. The then-student assumed the position last August, which from a social and education perspective, was the best month to do so.

“After months of absence, football is returning, which makes the sense of anticipation in a city palpable,” explains the graduate. “For the Legal Department, this means a plethora of agreements need to be reviewed, revised, and executed. It is a fantastic time within which to be exposed to the whole spectrum of an NFL team’s activities.”

Nick Flowers, in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room, describes working with the Dolphins as an “unforgettable experience.” Source: University of Miami School of Law

Working in Miami’s entertainment mecca exposed Flowers to various agreements beyond the ones used to run an NFL team. He dealt with headlining concert performers, FIFA-related matters for the World Cup, and the many issues that go into hosting a juggernaut event like a Grand Prix. There was plenty of room for fun as well — at one point, Flowers found himself witnessing a live match for the first time. “The experience gave me memories that will last a lifetime,” he says.

Now that he’s returned to South Africa, Flowers recalls these memories with pride to his colleagues at Javelin Sports Consulting, where he serves as a Junior Associate Attorney. He aims to use the knowledge and skills he gained at Miami Law to strengthen awareness and interest in American football in South Africa.

To change lives through the power of law, the University of Miami will go to great lengths. To join them in advocating for the underserved, click here to apply to Miami Law today.

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