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Bill drafted by Iowa Law student signed by Gov. Branstad

Bill ensures visitation rights of adult children to see ailing parents

A bill researched and drafted by a second-year student at the UI College of Law was signed into law during a public signing by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad on Friday, April 24, 2015.

The bill, Senate File 306, is an act relating to communication and visitation between an adult ward and another person.

Senate File 306 was researched and drafted by Iowa Law student Matt Hardin, originally of Des Moines. He served as a legislative extern with the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of a practicum supervised Iowa Law Professor Josephine Gittler.

The bill addresses situations where a guardian tries to unreasonably deny an adult ward’s visitation or communication with other persons such as family or friends, and provides that a ward has the right to such visitation and communication. The bill recognizes that there are situations where it would be in the ward’s best interest for the ward not to have contact with another person. Therefore, the bill provides that a guardian can obtain court approval for deny the ward’s contact with another person if good cause for doing so is shown.

“I've been interested in government and legislation for many years, and my legal education at Iowa has allowed me to play a more active role,” Hardin says. “I'm happy to have helped in the process. It's a testament to the University and the state that a student has the opportunity to have a real impact on our laws. I like that it will help families across the state. We have more and more adults under guardianships, so it's important we get it right for them and their loved ones."

Hardin’s externship is part of a practicum taught by Gittler, which offers student opportunities to work on law and public policy issues with faculty supervision and in collaboration with policy makers.

“Students taking the Practicum get great real world experience that has real world results,” Gittler says. “Matt was able to work with Sen. Rob Hogg, the Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the senate judiciary staff researching and drafting a bill that will become law.”

The Iowa Supreme Court has established the Guardianship and Conservatorship Reform Task Force to make recommendations directed at improving the system.  Gail Agrawal, Dean of the UI College of Law is serving as a member of the Task Force Steering Committee, and Professor Gittler is serving as Coordinator of the Task Force.

 

Lea VanderVelde

Professor VanderVelde Presents on Freedom Trials

Professor VanderVelde's February 13 talk on Freedom Trials is available via C-SPAN.

 

Students abroad

Comparing law across the globe

A unique law course has created an opportunity for Iowa students to build relationships with their counterparts on the other side of the world.

The Selected Topics in Comparative Law Seminar — offered by the University of Iowa College of Law this spring — invited Iowa students to compare U.S. and Russian Law in collaboration with students taking a parallel course in Russia.

After being assigned the same legal issues to research, students at Iowa were paired up with students from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow to conduct research together with the goal of completing a joint statement of the chief similarities and differences of the two legal systems with respect to their topic.

The course also came with an added bonus: each student group had the opportunity to travel to their partner’s home country to complete the project face-to-face — which, students say, has significantly benefited the research process.

“Often in law there’s what’s written down and then there’s what actually happens. So you can access what’s written down, but if you don’t have a partner in the other country, you can’t access what actually happens,” says third-year law student Elizabeth Etchells, who studied the impeachment process in each country.

“This has enabled us to do research to see what’s written down and what scholars have said and then actually go to students, practitioners, other professors, and say ‘How does this actually work?’ And sometimes there’s a significant difference between the two.”

The course was made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Peer-to-Peer Dialogues Program, with the goal of fostering greater contact between American and Russian citizens.

Professor Alexander Domrin, who teaches the course in Moscow, says it’s particularly timely due to the fragile political relationship between the U.S. and Russia — a sentiment that was mirrored in discussion between students.

“It was an amazing experience, just understanding how the political tension between our countries is very high right now and the relationship is probably the worst it has been since the cold war,” says Iowa third-year law student Lisa Castillo. “I really appreciated going to Russia, getting to know the people, and being able to facilitate dialogue between our countries so that we can maybe make our relations better and understand each other better.”

When Iowa law students visited their counterparts in Moscow in March, the group had the opportunity not only to review research with their partners, but also to meet and ask questions of attorneys at foreign law firms, see the country, and meet its citizens.

Setting aside stereotypes

The Russian class has benefited as well.

Anastasia Koval, who is pursuing a law degree in Moscow, says the educational exercise has been a great opportunity for her to practice her English. It’s also helped both student groups to set aside stereotypes or assumptions about one another.

“It has given me an opportunity to look at the law from a different angle,” says Koval, who lived in Sochi before her studies. “This is my first time in the U.S. and it’s quite different from what I am used to. It’s amazing to meet new people and to be in such an international environment here in Iowa City.”

Domrin, who has previously taught courses at Iowa law, said the course has been especially valuable because it has afforded both groups of students an opportunity to critically analyze the relatively young Russian Constitution, which was adopted in 1993.

“This course has been a good opportunity for both student groups to examine the strengths and weaknesses of their country’s laws,” Domrin says. “Good comparative law is about formulating possible suggestions.”

Professor John Reitz — who teaches the Iowa law course — says the experience has proved to be a very realistic exercise in how comparative law works outside the classroom.

“In addition to research and learning about comparative law, this course has the practical aspect that students have to actually communicate with a foreign lawyer and work out an understanding,” Reitz says.

Both professors hope to find a way to extend communication between their students in future courses, and maintain the bonds they’ve already built.

“My greatest hope is that Professor Domrin and I can figure out how to extend this when we don’t have this generous funding,” Reitz says. “ I’m hoping that we can get our classes talking by email and Skype and other digital forms of communication."

“We hope that this is just the beginning of much stronger programs between our two countries,” Domrin adds.

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First Iowa, Then Anywhere

First Iowa, then Anywhere Video Project

An Iowa Law education opens doors near and far. As graduates of the nation’s oldest law school in continuous operation west of the Mississippi River, many of our students choose to stay and serve here in the Hawkeye State, making a difference in the lives of Iowans from all walks of life.  Many others take the Iowa name to communities and workplaces far beyond Iowa’s borders.  Whether they remain in Iowa or go elsewhere, and whether they put their degrees to work as private attorneys, legislators, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, community leaders, counsel for small nonprofits or large Fortune 500 companies, or something else, Iowa Law’s graduates make us proud. 

This video and these interviews tell the stories of a few of our alumni.  We invite you to join the conversation by posting your own #firstiowa stories on Twitter or Facebook, or by e-mailing them to jill-deyoung@uiowa.edu and we'll share it.  For the next few weeks and months, we'll keep releasing new interviews from this year’s featured cities—Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Chicago—as well as sharing stories about our Hometown Hawkeyes. 

If you’d like us to come to your city for a round of interviews, please contact Jill De Young.

Year 1

The foundation of your career

Personal Attention    Writing Faculty    Faculty Student Ratio

Building legal skills, learning to think like a lawyer, gaining the tools to practice with integrity.

In your first year, we emphasize essential writing skills, analytical thinking, and a sharpened understanding of the role of legal institutions. You’ll take full advantage of our being one of the few law schools in the nation with a full-time legal writing faculty. 

First-year students will have two, small-section courses each semester with the professors in our Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research department. These classes deliver intensive, individualized instruction, with three to six conferences per term devoted to your legal writing projects.

Year 2

Specialize in your interests

Citizen Lawyer    Moot Court    Externships

Develop your knowledge, with an expanded focus on the areas of law you’re most drawn to. The experts are here.
 
In your second year, you’ll begin to gravitate toward the areas that interest you most. Our faculty are experts across the legal spectrum, and every aspect of modern law practice is covered, including international and comparative law.
 
Iowa Law’s Citizen Lawyer Program offers a wide variety of opportunities for pro bono work, community service, and philanthropic projects. Another way students extend their education beyond the classroom, developing professional skills is through a variety of moot court competitions—and Iowa consistently prepares winning moot court teams.
 
In our externship program, we place students in a variety of legal settings. Externships are the best preparation for your career, and a great way to make professional contacts. In fact, many students’ first job after graduating is one that began as an externship.

Year 3

They call you "Counselor"

Law Review    Legal Clinic    Study Abroad

Build your professional identity and accumulate deep experience in a supportive environment. Practice makes practitioners.
 
By the time you reach your third year, you’ll take advantage of an array of opportunities, putting into practice the cutting-edge legal theory and core doctrinal concepts you’ve mastered in your first two years. Perhaps you’ll work in the “Bullpen” in our legal clinic. Every year our students provide thousands of hours to underserved clients and other special-needs populations, representing clients and honing their legal skills under close faculty supervision.
 
Iowa Law is also home to four student-run law journals. Many students write for a journal during their second year and accept board positions during their third year.