07/14/2014 03:52 pm ET Updated Sep 13, 2014

Here Is a Cheap (and Great) Way to Handle the Issue of Legal Representation of Unaccompanied Minors


There is a bipartisan bill being passed around Washington DC and it includes a provision that unaccompanied minors get legal representation. That is, as you might guess, expensive and taxpayers would have to pick up that cost since the children cannot pay. I have no idea if the bill will pass, but if it does, we have to figure out how to pay for it.

I have an idea! And it is cheap! Very cheap since it is free!

In at least Washington, DC, there is a student practice rule that has been in existence for 40 years. It is fantastic. It allows 3rd year law students, closely supervised by a law school, to represent indigent people in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia charged with misdemeanors. The indigent person just must agree to the representation.

The students can not charge the clients which of course saves taxpayers millions and millions of dollars since the Constitution requires legal representation (and if someone can't pay for a lawyer, a lawyer is appointed and paid for by the taxpayers.)

The students get credit in exchange for their work (legal representation) and they also get great skills training. They also work a million times harder than most licensed lawyers and frankly I think most of the time provide better legal representation for indigents.

When I was a 3rd year law student at Georgetown, I represented dozens and dozens of clients, argued motions, did pleas and sentencings, tried many bench trials, and a jury trial for a client charged with carrying a deadly weapon. (Yes, I won!) My work did not cost the taxpayers a dime.

Two years after graduation from Georgetown Law School, I was in the LLM program at Georgetown (Stuart Stiller Fellow) and then I supervised 3rd year law students in court.

So ... if this bipartisan bill is to pass, we need included a student practice rule for representation of these unaccompanied minors. It makes sense economically (it won't cost taxpayers) and it is great training...and frankly, no young law student, no matter what he or she does in later career, will ever forget the experience of standing next to some child in court.