The Housing Advocacy and Litigation Clinic (HALC) is provided in collaboration with Rising for Justice (formerly known as D.C. Law Students in Court) a leader in training social justice advocates and representing low-income clients through its clinical programs since 1969. HALC places UDC Law students in the Landlord & Tenant Courthouse, where they have an opportunity to meet and work directly with clients facing eviction or housing insecurity in the District of Columbia. HALC students are taught by a team of expert housing lawyers and clinical instructors and participate jointly with students from other DC area law schools.
In the fall of 2023, a group of UDC Law students received experience filing and arguing applications to halt evictions. One student attorney was a vital part of a trial team that successfully secured a pre-trial motion to dismiss, thereby completely preventing an eviction. Another UDC Law student chaired evidentiary hearing on a motion to dismiss, during which they skillfully examined their client, cross-examined a process server, and successfully advocated for the entire case’s dismissal.
Third-year law student attorney Paul Campbell remarked on his clinical experience, “In Legal Writing classes, I had entire semesters to craft motions; in clinic, I have two weeks. Clinic is a great introduction to the practice of law and a reminder of the dedication it takes to be successful.” He continued, “This Clinic reminded me of [how] imperative it is to help…people who lack the resources to successfully navigate the legal system. Being able to help is a childhood dream come true.”
A hallmark of HALC’s approach is affording students the opportunity to represent a large number of clients in the high-volume landlord and tenant docket on short timelines. Through this model, HALC prepares students for fast-paced work with intensive instruction in landlord and tenant law. Director David Yellin provides close, direct supervision that ensures high quality both in client representation and student learning opportunities. By giving students iterated opportunities to participate in case events in the same court and legal area, students can become subject matter experts and, more crucially, develop their approach and identity as attorneys.
HALC also provides a strong focus on teaching students to think critically about the housing system in DC. Students examine the role of the law and courts in creating and preserving housing inequities. Explicit discussion of legal realist concepts and critical legal theory gives the students the tools to understand how to approach court proceedings, how to understand and predict judges, and how to recognize and call out places where the legal system fails to achieve just or equitable results.
David Yellin shared, “It is our hope that students come away from the clinic with an understanding of the challenges that poor Washingtonians and BIPOC individuals face, not only in housing, but in the many tendrils that housing insecurity and segregation can send forth into our clients’ lives. We try to ensure that they carry the experience of representing disfavored and vulnerable clients with them as they go forth into the legal profession, as well as providing them with real world experience with litigation and courtroom practice that prepares them for real legal work.”