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“Party With A Purpose” a success for UT Legal Clinic

As the University of Tennessee College of Law brings to a close its year-long 70th anniversary celebration of the Legal Clinic, financial gifts have helped ensure the clinic will continue to operate for years to come.

The year of celebratory events, designed to bring attention to the Legal Clinic and its mission, culminated Nov. 17 with “Party With A Purpose,” hosted by the College of Law at The Emporium in downtown Knoxville.

The event drew more than 400 people and brought the total of funds raised to $450,000, Interim Legal Clinic Director Penny White said.

“A large part of the amount raised was as a result of substantial gifts by about six individuals, but every gift is significant,” White said. “During Big Orange Give week, for example, as a result of a match by one of our strongest clinic supporters, we raised $34,000.”

The Legal Clinic at the UT College of Law is the oldest of its kind in continual existence in the United States. It was founded in 1947 by Charles H. Miller, who was hailed as a pioneer in legal education, and is highly ranked nationally among clinical programs at public universities.

Through its dual role, the Legal Clinic helps students learn to build attorney-client relationships and understand the professional obligations of those relationships. The students’ service also empowers needy clients to find solutions to their legal problems.

White and the team of College of Law faculty and staff who serve the Legal Clinic are continuing the nearly two-year fundraising task, White says, because they are committed to the clinic’s future.

“Our clinic functions like any other law firm,” White said. “We have to have funds to secure court reporters, court documents, public records, translators, experts; some of our clinics have to travel to the locations of the courts in which the students appear.

“Despite its long existence, the Legal Clinic as an institution did not have a permanent endowment. The endowment ensures that we can cover these types of costs.”

Beyond being an experiential classroom, the UT Legal Clinic immerses students in service to those who are in need, White said. That attitude of giving back influences graduates in significant and long-lasting ways.

“The commitment to public service stays with Clinic graduates and results in their continuing to give back to their community and the legal profession,” White said. “What has been evident in the past several months is that their commitment to the Legal Clinic is enduring. Many, many lawyers have told us that they became the lawyer they are today – both in terms of skill and professional responsibility – because of their experiences in the Legal Clinic.”

“We are so gratified by the amazing support we have received,” she said.