HeLP Legal Services Clinic Celebrates 10 Years with Reception at College of Law

Alumni, faculty and friends celebrated the 10th anniversary of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic with a reception at Georgia State Law on Thursday, Sept. 14. In its 10 years, more than 270 students from multiple professions have worked together in the clinic to address the social determinants of health for low-income families, recovering more than $1.2 million in benefits for clients.

Elinor Hitt (J.D. ’07) was a student in the first HeLP Clinic class in 2007. “I had done externships, but the first time I was actually someone’s lawyer was in clinic. It was daunting, but it was a great experience to realize even on a small scale that I can do this,” she said.

The clinic not only boosted her confidence in her lawyering skills, working on a case for a child who had an illness was a meaningful experience, she said. “I felt like, I’m giving this mom and this child support… I’m doing something to help these people, I’m making a difference in someone’s life.” Hitt, a partner at Warner Bates, said her firm looks for that kind of experience when hiring recent graduates.

“Despite their relative inexperience, the student interns in the HeLP Clinic work on fast-paced, high-stakes cases, the results of which can have life-changing impacts on the clients and families they represent,” said James Mitchell, clinical supervising attorney.

Danny Vincent (J.D. ’12), a litigator at Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, participated in the clinic in her third year.

“Law is so intimidating, even to people who are affluent and educated. So for people who are poor and already over-burdened and may not have the best education—to be their advocate and level the playing the field essentially, because often the people they are going up against are out-resourced… that’s part of our professional responsibility as lawyers,” said Vincent, who was encouraged to do pro bono volunteer work based on her experience with the clinic.

The event featured a video with comments from representatives of each of HeLP’s partners, including Steve Gottlieb, executive director of Atlanta Legal Aid Society; Dr. Robert Pettignano, HeLP’s medical director; Sylvia Caley (J.D. ’89) and Lisa Radtke Bliss, co-directors of the clinic; Charity Scott, founding director; Leslie Wolf, director of the Center for Law, Health & Society; and Steven J. Kaminshine, former dean and professor of law. Former clinic students Andy Navratil (J.D. ’18), Min Ji Kim (J.D. ’18) and Blinn Combs (J.D. ’17) discussed their experiences in the clinic on the video.