Drake University Law School Announces New Refugee Clinic

Drake University Law School announces a new refugee clinical program launching this spring. The Refugee Clinic is an exciting addition to the current legal assistance programs at the Drake Legal Clinic. Law students will have the opportunity for experiential learning by providing pro-bono legal representation to non-citizens in their applications for asylum before the U.S. government.

Suzan Pritchett, Director of Clinics and Experiential Education, will direct the new clinic. Pritchett is an experienced attorney in immigration and international human rights law, including service as an Attorney Advisor in the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review. She previously directed the Family & Immigrant Justice Clinic at the University of Wyoming College of Law. A Clinical Teaching Fellow will assist her in running the Refugee Clinic.

“The chance of obtaining asylum is five times more likely if the applicant has an attorney. The current demand for representation in these cases far exceeds the resources available in central Iowa. I am eager to be expanding both our hands-on learning opportunities for Drake Law students, and our services at the Drake Legal Clinic. The Refugee Clinic will have a profound impact on the student attorneys and the clients they serve,” shares Pritchett.

The Refugee Clinic is made possible by a generous grant from an anonymous donor. The First Unitarian Church of Des Moines also contributed a substantial gift of $10,000 in support of the new clinic.

Five students have been accepted as student attorneys for the Refugee Clinic in its inaugural semester. They will work on affirmative asylum cases before the Department of Homeland Security, defensive asylum cases before the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, and appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the federal Courts of Appeal. The clinic will receive client referrals from non-profit organizations across the state of Iowa.

One such partner will be Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors. In 2017, the organization helped individuals from over 60 different countries. Ann Naffier, Legal Director of Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors, is a 2011 graduate of Drake Law School. Drake Law students often serve as interns and volunteers at the Des Moines-based non-profit.

Dean of Drake Law School, Jerry Anderson, adds, “At Drake Law School, we prepare our students to be complete professionals, which means they need to practice in real cases, for real clients, with expert supervision. The launch of the Refugee Clinic aligns with our mission and will also help address a significant need for legal services in our community. Our students will be trained to be confident practicing in a complex area of law, and learn to provide top quality pro bono representation to clients.”

The Drake Legal Clinic serves many members of the community in a wide variety of cases. Current clinical programs offered include criminal defense, elder law, children’s rights, general civil practice, and entrepreneurial/transactional. The Law School has also organized pop-up clinics to provide legal counsel to veterans and clients of the Young Women’s Resource Center.

About the Drake Legal Clinic
The Drake Legal Clinic is housed in the 40,000-square-foot Neal and Bea Smith Law Center. It is supported by a $4.5 million federally funded endowment that ensures continued service to students and the community. As of spring 2020, the Drake Legal Clinic will offer eight clinical programs.

About the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines
Established in 1877, the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines is a community of about 600 members and friends. From its early beginnings to today, First Unitarian Church of Des Moines has taken on many social justice causes. The Church partners with community organizations to further the missions of justice work in the community.