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Lewis & Clark Law School Closing Portland Clinic
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Summary: The law clinic with the Lewis & Clark Law School namesake in Portland will close its doors for good on December 31 due to declining enrollment at the school. 

The law school at Lewis & Clark will close its legal clinic in Portland, according to a report from The Oregonian. The clinic provides legal services to the poor in the region.

  
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The law school has suffered enrollment decline of 13 to 30 percent from their peak years that came two to four years ago. The school has also cut staff members, costs and made other moves to ensure efficiency.

“What we have to do, like everybody else, is face budget realities,” said Jennifer Johnson, the new dean at Lewis & Clark. The clinic “has largely been a tuition-driven enterprise that we can’t afford. It’s purely financial.”

The doors to the clinic will close on December 31, which will worsen the present shortage of legal services for those who are low-income.

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“It’s a tremendous loss,” said Maureen McKnight, chief family court judge at Multnomah County Circuit Court. “The legal clinic was one of the only places the low-income could go for representation at no cost. They do tremendous work on domestic violence cases, challenges to restraining orders.”

This fall, enrollment at the law school hit 609 students, including part-time evening students. This is a major decline from the 735 enrolled students back in 2010.



Johnson has said that the legal job market has begun to improve. Johnson also said that the school will be able to survive and thrive due to its location in Portland and the reputation it has as a leading center of environmental law.

“I don’t think anybody thinks, we certainly don’t, that we will go back to those big classes,” Johnson said.

The executive director of the St. Andrews Legal Clinic, Shelly Matthys, said, “Everybody is shocked by it. We’re losing some really important, valuable representation. I know they will be sorely missed by the courthouse staff downtown.”

The legal services clinic offered landlord-tenant, debtor-creditor and family law services for little or no cost to clients. The clinic also helped people who wanted to represent themselves in producing legal filings acceptable to court staff. Law students were also offered a chance to gain valuable work experience.

Earlier in September, Johnson informed the public of the clinic’s closing in an email.

“Going forward, we must focus our in-house clinics on those with significant fund raising potential,” Johnson said in the email. “We must be cognizant of the fact that without outside funding, student tuition dollars pay these expenses, and we are trying to keep tuition as low as possible for all students.”



 

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