Rick Bales: Everyone deserves legal help

Rick Bales - Guest Columnist

Though Ohio Northern University College of Law is located in Ada, our Law Clinic is in downtown Lima. We just hired a new Clinic Director, Lauren Bartlett, giving me the opportunity to introduce Professor Bartlett and to explain how our Clinic serves the Lima community.

The ONU Law Clinic serves two critical purposes. First, it represents Lima residents who cannot afford to hire a private lawyer. ONU law students represent Lima clients with domestic violence proceedings, divorces, expungements (sealing an arrest or conviction so it is not publicly available), wills and trusts, and many other types of cases. Unfortunately, the need for such services exceeds our ability to provide them, so we often have a waiting list even for residents who are income-eligible.

Second, our clinic gives our students hands-on experience doing things that real lawyers do, such as interviewing clients, appearing in court, and drafting legal documents, under the close supervision of an experienced attorney. Because the clinic’s clients tend to be from poor and marginalized communities, the Clinic helps ONU law students understand that everyone deserves a voice and vigorous representation, and demonstrates to students why it’s important that they continue to serve the under-served later in their professional careers.

As dean of the Law School, I don’t choose the Clinic’s clients, and I don’t choose the clients’ cases. Sometimes, the clinic represents unpopular clients, on unpopular cases. But so do real lawyers – and every once in a while, today’s unpopular legal cause becomes tomorrow’s groundbreaking legal advance. Civil rights is the perfect example.

Before coming to ONU, Professor Bartlett was a director at the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law in Washington D.C. Before that, she founded and ran the Louisiana Justice Institute, a civil rights legal advocacy organization devoted to fostering social justice campaigns across Louisiana for communities of color and impoverished communities.

Professor Bartlett is assisted by Staff Attorney Micaela Deming. Before coming to ONU, Professor Deming was in private practice with a focus on serving domestic and sexual violence survivors. She serves on the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Commission on Domestic Violence, and speaks publicly about the impact that violence has on families and communities and how the justice system addresses that impact.

We at ONU Law are proud of our Clinic. It gives us an opportunity to serve the Lima community while at the same time training law students to be better lawyers and, more importantly, better people. The French poet Anatole France famously said that the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal bread. The ONU Law Clinic helps ensure that tomorrow’s lawyers understand that in the United States, justice is not the privilege of a wealthy few, but a right that all of us are entitled to.


Rick Bales

Guest Columnist

Rick Bales is the dean of Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law

Rick Bales is the dean of Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law

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