Yutian Lei and Alison Leuchtenmacher, both third-year law students, recently tried and won a court case as a part of their field placement with Student Legal Services (SLS).
During the process Yutian, Alison, and their supervisor— the director of SLS and Iowa Law alumnae—Amanda Elkins (10JD), worked together to defend a University of Iowa student in a simple misdemeanor case. The charge was failure to provide information following an accident resulting in vehicle damage.
“I prepared for a direct-examination and a cross-examination, and I had the opportunity to cross-examine and impeach a witness in the courtroom,” explained Yutian, “It was my first time defending a case in a courtroom. We did thorough preparation for this trial, so I felt prepared when sitting at the counsel table. Still, I was a little nervous, but sitting next to my supervisor helped me stay calm and focused.” Alison added, “I questioned one of our witnesses, and I did the closing argument.”
Even though the decision wasn’t announced until the next day, Alison expressed that when they were told it was not guilty there was a great feeling of knowing they were able to help the student. “Walking out of the courthouse without knowing the result made me anxious,’ added Yutian, “However, I was mostly excited about finishing my first trial and glad that our team had worked well together. When we received the trial result the next day, I was thrilled that we had won this case for our client, and it felt tremendously good to deliver this delightful news.”
Yutian expressed that working at SLS has been her favorite experience at Iowa Law so far, “My two supervisors are amazing, and everyone in the office is very friendly and passionate about helping our clients. I learned how to communicate with clients, did legal research in a variety of legal matters, and gained precious experience in criminal defense cases as well as civil cases. At Student Legal Services, I am able to develop legal skills and boost confidence. It is very fulfilling that I can be a part of this wonderful team to help our clients solve real-life issues.”
Alison agreed saying that it really has been a great experience. “My only regret is that I wish I would have discovered it sooner so I could have been a part of SLS for more semesters,” she added.
As they move closer towards graduating law school, both are excited about their future. Alison accepted an offer with the Elkader Law Office, contingent on her passing the bar, and Yutian will be clerking for the Fourth Judicial District of Iowa in Council Bluffs.
SLS is a general practice law firm within the University of Iowa’s Division of Student Life. SLS is staffed by experienced attorneys who provide high-quality free legal advice and legal representation for students, educate students on their legal rights, and provide meaningful internship opportunities for law students.