TU Dedicates New Legal Clinic Building

Friday, February 22, 2002

Published on 2/22/02

The University of Tulsa Legal Clinic, a free legal service run by the law school in which students under faculty supervision help clients in need, is now working out of a new building that’s three times the size of the old one.

A ceremony to officially inaugurate the new facility, known as the Boesche Legal Clinic, was held Friday, Feb. 22. The address is 407 S. Florence Ave., across the street from the TU College of Law. The old building is at the corner of 4th and Harvard.

“We’ve moved from a cramped facility that was originally a small doctor’s office to state-of-the-art law offices,” said TU law dean Martin H. Belsky.

“Adding this much-roomier and technologically modern facility to our law school allows us to provide even higher quality legal services to the clinic’s clients, which include the disabled, elderly on fixed incomes and people with health-care problems,” Belsky said.

Funding for the half-million dollar facility came from The Mervin Bovaird Foundation of Tulsa and the Jay C. Byers estate. The clinic, which handles more than 1,000 civil cases per year, is named in honor of Fenelon Boesche, a lawyer involved in the Bovaird Foundation since its establishment in 1955 and who was its president until his death in 1993. The student area is named after Byers, who overcame spina bifida, earned a TU law degree in 1961 and practiced law in Cleveland, Okla., for 33 years. He died in March 2000 at the age of 63.

“Law students who work here get to see how the theory they have learned in the classroom is put into practice for our clients,” says clinic director Leslie Mansfield.

Students take part in weekly class sessions and individual case conferences. Through their work -- at least 10 to 14 hours a week -- the lawyers-to-be develop skills in interviewing and counseling, legal research, negotiation, drafting of legal documents, and oral advocacy before courts and administrative agencies. They earn three to four credit hours for their work.

Belsky says the students also learn that the practice of law involves service to the community, “a lesson that the law school hopes they will take with them to their practice after graduation.”

Mansfield says demand for the services and the clinic’s popularity among students taxed the old 1,200-square-foot office.

The new single-level building covers 3,858 square feet, much of it carpeted, including six offices and a conference room that can be used as a classroom.

Especially welcome are the two interview rooms where clinic staff can confer with clients and sign documents. Each room, with built-in wiring for video monitoring to evaluate students, is twice the size of the old building’s single interview room, which also housed a law library and stored office supplies.

Another feature is the Jay C. Byers Student Clinic Center, which houses 16 carrels where law students do their work. Each student has a desk, computer and telephone. The carpeted room has floor to ceiling windows on three sides. Other amenities of the clinic include a kitchen and a room used by students to answer the many calls involving the elderly law services.

While the legal clinic is primarily a teaching tool, providing qualified law students an opportunity to work on real cases, the ultimate beneficiaries are the clients in need of legal assistance. “The nature of our clinic is that we provide a much-needed service to the community,” says Mansfield. “And this is the kind of law we like to practice because it is so rewarding.”

Most cases fall in two areas, the Health Law Project and the Older American Law Project. Through these two projects, students represent senior citizens and low-income clients in a wide range of needs, including estate planning, foreclosures and evictions, real estate transactions, credit and consumer law, guardianships, Social Security disability and nursing home advocacy. Clients are not charged for attorney fees.

The Older American Law Project, under the direction of Morris Bernstein, serves clients in Osage, Tulsa and Creek counties, and the Health Law Project serves clients in other parts of the state. The clinic is also a regional referral center for black lung cases in the Southwest.

Recent well-known cases brought to light by the TU clinic include that of a Tulsa man sentenced in November to two years and nine months in prison for a scheme to raise money in the name of youth ministries. The man, Lendon Eugene Heinrichs, was ordered to pay $150,065 in restitution to eight victims and to the estate of an 87-year-old woman.